AALSMEER, The Netherlands (Reuters) – Warehouses are not normally tourist stops, but an exception is the century-old Royal FloraHolland depot outside Amsterdam where millions of flowers are distributed every day.
The same tourists who flock to the flower-filled houseboats in central Amsterdam get up at dawn and pay 7 euros ($ 8) to visit the warehouse. That’s the size of 400 football fields and some 20,000 varieties of flowers and plants are sold there.
Every morning, the world’s largest flower market kicks in at 6 a.m., when a cooperative founded in 1911 by Dutch growers holds an auction where bidders buy products to be exported around the world.
Chances are, flowers for weddings in London, birthdays in Spain, and funerals in Germany have passed – quickly – through FloraHolland.
As the doors open to visitors at 7 a.m., dozens of electric carts pulling carts filled with flowers and plants cross the warehouse floor, sending scents floating towards the rafters.
While it is the opportunity to see millions of flowers at once that attracts tourists, equally striking is the logistical prowess of the cooperative, founded to bring together the supply of a highly perishable product in one space.
In less than 90 minutes, the flowers bought at auction are delivered to buyers, who load them into trucks and ship them at full speed to all corners of Europe or around the world.
Today, the market has some 4,500 members from countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Israel, Colombia, Ecuador, Belgium, Italy and Great Britain, with 4.5 billion euros ($ 5 billion) in annual revenues, helping to make the Netherlands the world’s largest exporter of cut flowers.
Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy