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Dutch bulb growers look elsewhere for consolidation

Lack of space a logistical problem

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AALSMEER, the Netherlands - Many of the larger bulb growers in the Netherlands, and in particular in the area known as the ‘Bollenstreek,’ are scrambling for adequate space to expand operations. Since the possibilities within their own traditional geographical area are extremely limited, growers now are looking elsewhere. Expansion of U.S. operations could be an option.

Companies such as Van Zijverden and Onderwater/ Van Bourgondiën already ship much of their bulbs to the U.S. for processing. Bulbs and Flowers International - the largest bulb trader in the world with sales of over $125 million - has offers from the U.S., France and Portugal to relocate their processing facilities. The Dutch firm moved to new premises in Voorhout thirteen years ago. There, it operates from a 250,000-square-feet warehouse.

The ‘Bollenstreek’ logistically remains attractive to the larger growers since trained staff can be found in the immediate area. The region is located just south of Haarlem and includes such well-known towns as Lisse, Hillegom and Sassenheim. Specialized transportation firms and suppliers, all part of a well-developed infrastructure, are located nearby.

The scarcity of space however forces many growers to fragment their operations, creating logistical nightmares. Such problems could be compounded by transatlantic shipping, with potential shipping delays, and even the loss of valuable cargo in maritime accidents. Since many of the buyers in the U.S. and Canada have consolidated and now only deal with a few large supplyers, bulb companies are obliged to ship large quantities within a set time frame. If delays occur, the cost to the supplyers could be compounded many times over, another reason to ship bulbs to their own processing plants, and from there to North American retailers.

The bulbs themselves no longer are grown exclusively in the ‘Bollenstreek.’ Numerous farmers elsewhere in the northern part of the country in recent decades have joined the ranks of bulb growers, often supplying bulbs on contract.