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