BelOrta celebrates 70th birthday of its clock auction


Clock sales made BelOrta the European reference in terms of pricing.

Today, clock sales are an integral part of horticultural auctions. 70 years ago, the very first clock sale took place at the then Mechelen Horticultural Auction in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, one of the many auctions BelOrta originated from. This was also one of the biggest steps in the modernization of fruit and vegetable sales.

Externalization of the law of supply and demand

BelOrta’s sales hall is the beating heart of the auction. From Monday to Friday, buyers put the law of supply and demand into practice here. The sale is made possible thanks to six computer-controlled auction clocks. These clocks display different data – including the product name, product quality and unit price.

Buyers can follow the evolution of the price on a halo with 100 glowing lights. This halo shows a starting price and then turns – in a system of discount – counterclockwise to a lower price. The buyer who first presses his or her button closes the transaction and gets an audio connection with the auctioneer. He can then communicate the desired number of boxes to the auctioneer via the communication system. The buyer’s transport service is often ready to load the purchased crates immediately after this sale. In this way we create an ultra-short and fast logistics chain.

The auction clock: an impartial, objective and non-influenceable system

Belgian horticulture at an entrepreneurial level has a longstanding tradition, with roots in the early 20th century. In order to obtain the best possible price, the auction clock was introduced in 1950 at the Mechelen Horticultural Auction – one of the predecessors of the current BelOrta – as an impartial, objective and non-influenceable system.

As a result of the rapid technological developments in the 20th century, the clock function also underwent a transformation. Today, connected buyers can also follow all clock movements and conclude transactions from their PC at home. The Simultaneous Network – with a real-time, worldwide connection – ensures that buyers present in the BelOrta sales hall can also bid on products that are simultaneously offered at the other Belgian auctions.

Some key figures

  • Clock sales take place from Monday to Friday
    • Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are main days for vegetables, with sales from approx. 7am to 11am (depending on the season)
    • Tuesdays and Thursdays are split days for vegetables, with sales from approx. 8:15 am to 10:30 am (depending on the season), but main days for the fruit.
    • During the season strawberries are also sold on Saturdays
  • Clock auction was introduced in 1950
  • 6 computer-controlled auction clocks
  • 150 places in the sales hall
  • 400 affiliated buyers
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