The Dutch Clock
KunMing International Flora Auction Trading Center (KIFA), located in Kunming in China's Yunnan Province, was inaugurated in 2001.
KIFA is the second largest flora auction trading center in the world, after the Royal Flora Holland auction in the Netherlands. Encompassing a trading space of 160,000m2, KIFA is home to two auction halls and twelve ‘auction clocks’. 4,5 million flowers are sold there everyday, and 1,500 species of flowers and plants are traded throughout the year.
KIFA has adopted the 'Dutch clock auction’ system, which is also known as an open-outcry descending price auction. The seller or auctioneer opens bidding at a high price and lowers the rate repeatedly as time passes by. This is executed with a clock that ticks the price downwards second-by-second. The first bidder to communicate that he will accept the current price claims the item in question at the prevailing rate at that moment.
Despite their brilliance and also what romantic intonations cut flowers convey, a job at the auction centre is one made of long working hours and irregular shifts. . In order to guarantee longer vase-life, the cut flowers are sent to the flower shops they are destined for immediately after the auction. The week before notable calendar dates -Mother’s Day, Valentine's Day, etc - industry professionals often find themselves working for up to twenty (20) hours each day, consecutively.
Besides administrative KIFA staff, people who work at the center fall into two distinct groups:
1. The flower dealers. When they're not examining and inspecting flowers, they spend most of their time stationed in the auction hall trying to get the best deal .
2. The logistics team. They are in charge of receiving flowers from farms, grading and packing them into batches for auction, and finally dispatching them to the customers’ dock for pickup. Most workers in this section are seasonal employees hired only during peak seasons.
During QiXi, the Chinese version of Valentine's Day, four billion flowers were auctioned and shipped to flower shops all over China. Every eight out of the ten roses that ended up in someone's hand came from this trading center.
This is a project intended to document the daily work of people around the ‘Dutch clock’.