AALSMEER, Netherlands (NBC/RTV) — Business is blossoming at the world’s biggest flower distribution center in the Netherlands as it gears up for Valentine’s Day on Saturday. Workers drive through massive halls at the FloraHolland Auction and Distribution Center to make sure that hundreds of millions of flowers are rapidly delivered for the holiday. The traditional red rose is facing stiff competition this year from the budding popularity of the iconic Dutch symbol: the tulip.
“Well, Valentine of course, everybody thinks about a rose and a red rose especially, and of course, that’s the queen of the flowers during the whole year, but especially during Valentine,” said Lex Van Horssen, FloraHolland Auction spokesman. “The roses we sell these days are about 100 million pieces of roses, but we also sell about 100 million pieces of tulips these days, very much in the red color or any sort of red you can imagine.”
The flowers at the distribution center come from Kenya, Ethiopia and Israel, while Germany, the U.K., France, Italy and Russia are the biggest buyers. The decision by Russia to ban imports of fruit and vegetables from Europe in response to Western sanctions has not directly impacted sales, as the ban doesn’t include flowers and plants. But the state of the Russian economy has made purchasing flowers more expensive than usual.
“The value of the ruble compared to the euro, that’s really bad at this moment, so for the Russian consumer, flowers are more expensive than normal,” said Van Horssen.
FloraHolland sells more than 12 billion flowers and plants every year. The center has over 3,500 employees and an annual turnover of over $5 billion.