‘Royal FloraHolland is not a revolving door’

Members that are leaving the organisation because they aren’t happy about FloraHolland’s services anymore, aren’t welcome at the marketplace for the next three years. “The board of management decided that the organisation can’t be used as a revolving door.” This is what Lucas Vos said at the General Members’ Meeting on the 8th of December.

A total of 46 members cancelled their FloraHolland membership during the past year. In most cases it concerned companies that ceased to exist. But there were also a few members who ended their membership because they weren’t happy about FloraHolland’s services anymore. These growers are mostly focused on the discount retail sector. Vos: “Growers who left this year should know that they can’t come back to join us again next year. If you leave, you aren’t welcome at our marketplace for the next three years.”

FloraHolland did manage to keep four other growers who focus on discount retail on board, by offering them more attractive rates; they receive a so-called Quick Fix, a 0.4% discount on the rates, for the duration of one year. Vos explains that it concerns growers, including three tulip growers, who don’t make much use of the auction’s services.

FloraHolland thinks it’s important to keep them involved. Discount retail is a growing sector. FloraHolland isn’t really adding any value to it at the moment. But Vos thinks it would be unwise to say goodbye to members that are focused on the discount segment. “That would be foolish. It is the fastest growing sales channel. We can’t add any value at the moment, because we aren’t ready yet.” But Vos sees opportunities to play a role in this segment in the future, for example in the field of sustainability.

I feel screwed
Some members find it hard to accept the unique position offered to these four members. One of them said: “I read somewhere that tulip contract prices have gone down by 0.4%. It feels like we’re paying for that. I feel screwed.” Another member said that, from a letter of Vos, he had understood that individual price agreements had been made on previous occasions. “I really don’t get that. It’s unfair competition. It disadvantages small growers.” He demanded an independent inquiry into past price agreements.

Jack Goossens indicated that according to FloraHolland’s statutes, they are allowed to make individual arrangements that are different from the standard rates. Those rules date back to before the merger. And there are conditions – the agreements can only be valid for a limited period and they have to be in the cooperative’s interest. Goossens did indicate though, that at the time of the merger, it was agreed that those arrangements were going to be phased out.

And Goossens also acknowledged that as a chairman he holds a different view than as a grower. “Members are getting bigger and bigger. The absolute amounts are constantly growing. It’s time to start looking at this topic from a broader perspective.”

He also pointed out that the rates are part of FloraHolland 2020. The Quick Fix is temporary. We’re planning to have a proposal regarding pricing ready some time next year. It will be presented to all members and they will be asked to vote on it. “We’re mainly buying time now, until we have decided on a more permanent direction.”

A special management team of 13 members is currently looking into the rates, governance and different types of membership. One of the points that the team has already had some interesting discussions about, is the principle idea that all members of the cooperative are equal but not the same. Should large growers be treated differently from small growers with regards to the rates they pay?