Royal FloraHolland has been trialling Today for Tomorrow auctioning of spray chrysanthemum on clock 9 in Aalsmeer for a period of ten days. Flowers weren’t harvested until they had been sold and they were delivered to buyers by 6 a.m. the day after auctioning. The main advantages for the trade are more efficient logistics and more security about product availability. But growers are experiencing some disadvantages.
FloraHolland trialled the Today for Tomorrow nationwide auctioning system. The main objective of the experiment was to find out about the system’s feasibility, both at a technical and a functional level, explains Geert Jan van der Kooij. He’s a project manager for FloraHolland’s strategic New Auctioning programme.
A first, tentative conclusion is that customers of the auction are positive, because the system offers them better logistics and more security. But growers experienced some disadvantages.
According to René Ververs of Verbeek & Bol in De Kwakel, the logistical advantages of Today for Tomorrow are significant. “We normally receive our orders between 10 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. With this system, we received them before 6 a.m. That means that we can process the flowers straightaway. The biggest difference is the Friday auction; Today for Tomorrow ensures that we’ve got flowers early on Monday mornings.”
Luc Ribberink of OZ Export in De Kwakel is equally positive about the experiment. “We have great confidence in these developments. It’s efficient. Flowers are reaching the buyers via the shortest possible route. When you’re talking about cost reductions in the chain, this is an excellent example.” But he does feel it’s necessary to make a choice between Today for Today and Today for Tomorrow. Having the two systems simultaneously doesn’t work.
The benefits are clear to buyers. No more lorries driving back and forth between various locations to bring flowers that were bought in Aalsmeer to Naaldwijk or vice versa. In addition, they can immediately start processing the flowers early in the morning and have products ready for their customers earlier in the day. And there’s also a social aspect. How much longer are people willing to accept that auctioning starts at 6 a.m.?
Today for Tomorrow has advantages for the auction, too. Logistics become more predictable – they know exactly what’s going to arrive and when. Predicting becomes a requirement for growers too, as they’ll have to indicate in advance what they’re going to bring to the auction the next day. Some growers feel that that’s unrealistic.
According to Theo Dirkx of Janssen Maasbree Flowers, the supply of his nursery is quite predictable. “It might be harder for others, but we produce the same amount of stems and supply more or less the same weight every day. We can get all worried about the changes, but Today for Tomorrow actually improves the logistic process. The future will tell whether we need to compromise in different areas.”
Ron Ammerlaan of Jos en Ron Ammerlaan in Bleiswijk, a Zentoo member, holds a different view. In his experience, it’s hard to give a good estimate about next day’s quality, quantity and weight of all of the chrysanthemums to be auctioned. Same day sales play a role in this too. “You’ve got to indicate the weight within a range of 5 grams, that isn’t always possible.”
Ammerlaan thinks that as a result, growers will use their stock for Today for Tomorrow. Instead of a fresher product, buyers will be receiving an older product than what they got in the Today for Today system.
Another consequence is that growers will be needing twice the number of trolleys at their nursery as well as larger warehouses and cold stores, according to Ammerlaan. And at the end of the auctioning process, the trolleys all have to be redistributed, it all adds to the workload. In short, Today for Tomorrow leads to a significant increase in costs for the growers, according to Ammerlaan.
He also points out that if things are hard to predict for chrysanthemum, how about rose, tulip or peony? A rose grower sometimes doesn’t decide until noon on Sunday whether he’s going to do a third round of cutting. How can he indicate on Friday which amount he’s going to supply to the auction on Monday and what the length and weight is going to be? Ammerlaan also wonders if the smaller KOA-buyers, that aren’t based at the auction, will be able to buy at a later time during the day. It might mean that small buyers are going to drop out.
Ribberink: “It could well be that growers are a bit too conservative sometimes. Harvesting a day earlier, might not always be a problem. It means that the flowers spend an extra day in the cold store, but at least they’re no longer affected by changes in temperature.”
One question that no one knows the answer to is: what happens to the flowers that aren’t sold? During the experiment, growers were allowed to set minimum prices and if the flowers weren’t sold at that price, they could be used for the Today for Today clock. However, if Today for Tomorrow is really going to be implemented, they won’t be able to do that. So, what can a grower do with the flowers that aren’t sold then? Will growers dispose of them or will they present them again at the auction clock the following day? The latter will lead to lower prices because it increases the supply – the market is no longer cleaned up by withdrawing and destroying. It will lead to problems, especially with a product like gerbera, which generally has relatively large quantities of unsold flowers.
(Background) Delivery by 6 a.m.
Royal FloraHolland trialled the Today for Tomorrow auctioning of spray chrysanthemum for a period of ten auction days, until Wednesday 21 June. Today for Tomorrow is a nationwide auctioning system. Twelve growers indicated a day in advance what they would bring to the auction the next day. A total of 30 to 40 trolleys was auctioned each day. After the auction at 10.30 a.m., the growers bunched the chrysanthemums, which were delivered to the buyers by 6 a.m. the next day.
There was no commercial objective to the experiment, the aim was to find out whether the system works at a technical and functional level. Fourteen buyers were asked to participate. In the end, the Today for Tomorrow flowers were purchased by 72 buyers because it wasn’t possible, technically, to deny non-participants access to the remote buying system.
Growers were allowed to set a minimum price. Unsold flowers were not withdrawn from the market. Growers, traders and auction are currently evaluating the experiment and a decision regarding potential prolongation will be announced at a later stage.
For the time being, FloraHolland focuses on the main and bulk products for the Today for Tomorrow auctioning system. Auction, buyers and growers realise that the system might not suit all product groups. Another important question is how Today for Today and Today for Tomorrow are going to be organised simultaneously, and whether that’s desirable.