Former VBA director André Mulder dies at 82

André Mulder (centre).

André Mulder, who, as a director of the former flower auction VBA, put Aalsmeer on the map as the world’s largest global auction for flowers and plants, died in his hometown, Aalsmeer, on 12 December 2023. He was 82.

Mulder, a charismatic figure on the floriculture scene between the 1970s and 1990s, was the first director of what was then known as the United Flower Auctions Aalsmeer (VBA), today known as Royal FloraHolland Aalsmeer.

Mulder was born in Loenen in 1941 and graduated from the prestigious Horticultural High School in Utrecht in 1962. He was a trained horticultural engineer, and one of his first jobs was in the Dutch seed and breeding industry when his employer stationed him in France for a while.

In 1964, he joined the cooperative veiling ‘Bloemenlust’ in Aalsmeer, where the board appointed him interim director in 1967. Mulder will be remembered as introducing a new governing style, hosting a series of member meetings at Bloemenlust, which eventually paved the way for the merger between Bloemenlust and the central Aalsmeer auction CAV.

From the onset, the newly established VBA at the Legmeerdijk in Aalsmeer ranked first in size and turnover compared to the 14 flower auctions that then existed in the Netherlands.

Mulder has primarily contributed to the improved shelf life of cut flowers by supporting research and the development of flower food. He was widely praised for his communication skills and his persuading leadership. Long before the word human resources existed in the Netherlands, Mulder focused on managing the auction’s workforce more productively and with greater empathy, organising employee training.

To expand VBA’s growth overseas, tapped into the potential of different foreign markets. While the auction’s activities in the USA met with criticism, opening up the Japanese market was more successful.

Mulder was the driving force behind many logistical improvements. He made the VBA marketplace accessible to growers from over the Netherlands by encouraging collective transport.

He was also a strong advocate for auctioning imported flowers. From primarily an auction for local Aalsmeer products, the VBA became a national and, from the 1970s, even an international marketplace. Besides cut flowers and pot plants, he also foresaw that tree nursery products would be an interesting addition to the VBA range.

In addition to trading through the clock, he managed to get the BB (intermediary agency) off the ground. He gave ample scope to further develop the Cultra cash and carry store.

In 1997, following 33 years of VBA leadership, Mulder retired. Many green professionals, friends and family attended his farewell party at the VBA.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands bestowed him the honorary Knight in the Order of Orange Nassau.

Mulder was laid to rest on 21 December 2023 at a public funeral in Aalsmeer.

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