Pink roses at the Multiflora Market

#Gauteng52, Week 7: Johannesburg’s Multiflora Market

Welcome to Week 7 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Multiflora Market, a massive wholesale flower market east of downtown Joburg.

I love taking photos in warehouses and factories and the Multiflora Market had been high on my list for a long time. But you have to go at the crack of dawn to catch the action, and it’s not easy to drag oneself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to look at flowers. Luckily the #Gauteng52 project finally gave me the motivation I needed.

The Multiflora Market was founded in 1944 and is the largest flower market in Africa. Every morning before dawn, farmers from across South Africa ship boxes and boxes of fragrant blooms into this warehouse, where they go up for auction and get shipped out again to florists, grocery store chains, and even the guys who hawk flowers at street intersections. Buyers come to the Multiflora Market from all over Joburg, South Africa, other African countries, and even Europe.

Flowers ready for auction at MultifloraCartloads of flowers lined up for auction in the Multiflora warehouse.

Stopping to Smell the Roses at the Multiflora Market

My friend Marie-Lais and I arrived at Multiflora around 6:00 a.m. on a Thursday. We hadn’t arranged anything ahead of time, but when the staff saw us wandering aimlessly — me with my camera and Marie-Lais with her notebook — they were quick to say hello and offer to show us around the facilities. I recommend calling in advance for a tour though. The auction process is incredibly interesting, and the management is more than happy to explain things and let visitors observe the action.

I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Lady in Multiflora warehouseBefore the auction kicks off at 7:00 a.m., buyers, sellers, and Multiflora staff hustle between the rows of flowers, checking what’s available and taking notes.

Counting flowers at the Multiflora MarketThere are so many flowers. 

Pink roses at the Multiflora MarketMore pink roses than your heart desires. We didn’t see any red roses — the operations manager said sellers were holding those back in the weeks before Valentine’s Day. (We visited about three weeks ago.) As you can imagine, this room smells incredible.

Pink proteasI personally prefer proteas to roses.

The Multiflora Market auction hallAt 7:00 sharp, Multiflora staff begin wheeling carts of flowers into the auction hall. The bidding process is fully automated (no shouting auctioneers) and somewhat complicated, using those big clocks on the wall above the doors. Read about the auction clock here.

Buyer in auction hallBuyers sit at these desks with headsets on and use the built-in computers to place their bids.

Multiflora buyersThese buyers were super intense. 

Loading flowers onto conveyor beltOnce the flowers have been purchased, staff members wheel the carts from the auction hall to another huge room. The flowers are loaded onto a conveyor belt for distribution to their buyers. 

Distributing flowersGreenery on its way.

Flowers that don’t get sold — blooms with a couple of brown petals, for instance, or some other imperfection — must be destroyed. Cartloads of perfectly lovely flowers go waste and staff members are forbidden to take even one. I guess I understand why it has to be that way but it made me sad. I struggled not to swipe a couple of those unwanted blossoms for myself.

Once we’d had our fill of the warehouse, Marie-Lais and I walked over the retail section. The vendors on this side of the market sell flowers and potted plants to the public at insanely cheap prices. This is a popular place to buy flowers for weddings and parties, and there is also a small coffeeshop.

I bought a small bouquet of proteas and fynbos for R25 (less than $2) and Marie-Lais bought a huge bunch of tuberoses for R75 (about $5). We saw some great little decorative pot plants and succulents.

Succulents at MultifloraBaby succulents for sale.

Valentine plantsHappy Valentine’s Day.

The Multiflora Market is located 1 Marjorie Street in City Deep. More information at +27-11-613-4011 and www.multiflora.co.za.

Read all of my #Gauteng52 posts and check out the interactive #Gauteng52 map.

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10 Comments

  • Reply GoingSomewhereSlowly (@AnjeRautenbach) February 12, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Heather Feather! This is so awesome! Love the protea photo!

    • Reply 2summers February 12, 2017 at 7:10 pm

      Thanks Angie. Proteas are the best.

  • Reply Gail Scott Wilson February 12, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Love that place, you’ve captured those pink roses and protea’s so well I want to go and get some flowers ASAP.

    • Reply 2summers February 12, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Hahahaha. I guess Multiflora should thank me then 🙂

  • Reply all-TIM-ate February 13, 2017 at 4:49 am

    Have heard about but never been to Multiflora. I’m really enjoying and always look forward to your #Gauteng52 posts

    • Reply 2summers February 13, 2017 at 10:20 pm

      Thanks Tim!

  • Reply autumnashbough February 13, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    I bet it does smell incredible. But it’s so sad that the flowers are destroyed. I want them to be donated.

    • Reply 2summers February 13, 2017 at 6:20 pm

      I know. At the very least they should be composted! Hopefully the market will get with the program on that soon.

  • Reply Karabo July 2, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Heather, apologies for the late commentary but I’d really like to visit this place while I’m on holiday. Was just wondering if there was a particular reason you were there at 6AM:o

    • Reply 2summers July 2, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Karabo! The auction happens at 7 am, so if you want to watch the flowers being bought and sold and wheeled around on giant carts (which is pretty fun to watch) then you should go early. But if you just want to shop for flowers in the retail section then you can go later 🙂

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