The crash of the $8.5 billion global flower trade (Part II)

Surplus flowers are destroyed at a waste place next to the flower auction in Honselersdijk, Netherlands, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

[Reading level: C2 – Mastery]

The crash of the $8.5 billion global flower trade (Part I)

The flower trade is a miracle of modern capitalism. A chain of cold storage starts with stems being picked in places as far-flung as Africa, the Middle East, and South America, then packed into refrigerated trucks, driven to refrigerated planes, and flown to Amsterdam to be auctioned off. They’re then repacked into more cold trucks and planes and delivered to supermarkets, florists, and bridal bouquets across Asia, Europe, and the U.S.


The auctions are run by a cooperative, Royal FloraHolland, formed a century ago by a group of growers who met in a pub and devised a system to better control how their flowers were sold. Royal FloraHolland now runs four auction sites that handle the bulk of the global trade. Its facility in Aalsmeer, a concrete warehouse larger than 75 soccer fields, is one of the biggest buildings in Europe. Each day before sunrise, workers fill it with truckloads of chrysanthemums, roses, and tulips. Buyers assemble in rooms filled with computer screens, where photos of each lot are displayed. Clare’s order likely would have gone from her wholesaler to a broker here.


The blooms are sold under the traditional Dutch auction system, in which prices start high then tick lower as a clock counts down. The first buyer to pounce wins. As the lots are bought, electric tractors pull long trains of wagons loaded with blooms from one side of the warehouse to the other. The average day sees more than 100,000 transactions. Most of the flowers end up elsewhere in Europe, in under 12 hours.


Spring is usually a busy season, with weddings, Mother’s Day, and Easter. And in the early days of March, even as the Netherlands was reporting its first coronavirus infections, the auctions went off as usual. But after Italy imposed a national lockdown, France ordered nonessential stores to close, and Germany called for the cancellation of most events, the market collapsed.


March 16, the same day Dean postponed her wedding, was the “blackest day” at the auctions, says Fred van Tol, international sales manager at Royal FloraHolland. Growers were calling him in a panic. “Those are difficult phone calls,” he says. “Their life work is about to implode.”


Rose prices dropped to €0.07 (8¢) a stem that day, down 70% from their price a year earlier. Traders struggled to make any deals. At the Naaldwijk auction site, outside The Hague, workers tossed cartful after cartful of wrapped bouquets and potted houseplants on the floor so small tractors could scoop them into dumpsters. The auction house could stabilize prices only by capping supply at 30% of last year’s level.


[To be continued]

The crash of the $8.5 billion global flower trade (Part III)



miracle /ˈmɪr.ə.kəl/ [B2] (n): điều kỳ diệu

in place [C2] (adv): tại chỗ

far-flung /ˌfɑːˈflʌŋ/ (adj): xa xôi

cooperative /kəʊˈɒp.ər.ə.tɪv/ (n): hợp tác xã

devise /dɪˈvaɪz/ (v): nghĩ ra, phát minh ra

the bulk of /bʌlk/ (quant): phần lớn

chrysanthemum /krɪˈsænθ.ə.məm/ (n): hoa cúc

assemble /əˈsem.bəl/ [C2] (v): tập hợp

lot /lɒt/ (n): lô hàng

broker /ˈbrəʊ.kər/ (n): người môi giới

pounce /paʊns/ (v): vồ, chụp

tractor /ˈtræk.tər/ [C2] (n): máy kéo

wagon /ˈwæɡ.ən/ (n): xe hàng, xe goòng

transaction /trænˈzæk.ʃən/ [C1] (n): giao dịch

go off (v): diễn ra

implode /ɪmˈpləʊd/ (v): lụi bại

toss [C2] (v): ném

cartful /kɑːtfʊl/ (quant): số lượng bằng 1 xe hàng

potted houseplant /ˈpɒt.ɪd ˈhaʊs.plɑːnt/ (n): chậu cây trồng trong nhà

scoop /skuːp/ (v): xúc

dumpster /ˈdʌmp.stər/ (n): thùng rác

cap /kæp/ [C1] (v): giới hạn


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