‘I’ve never seen anything like this’: Heat dome, flooding wreak havoc on B.C. Christmas tree supply

Click to play video: 'What’s behind Canada’s Christmas tree shortage?' What’s behind Canada’s Christmas tree shortage?
WATCH: What’s behind Canada’s Christmas tree shortage? – Nov 28, 2021

Unless you start the Christmas tree hunt early this season, securing that perfect slice of holiday tradition may be a challenge.

The Canadian Christmas Trees Association said there’s a supply shortage across North America, driven by increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click to play video: 'Christmas trees in short supply this season' Christmas trees in short supply this season
Christmas trees in short supply this season – Nov 20, 2021

Christmas trees are a $100-million a year industry in Canada with $49-million worth of product exported mostly to the U.S., according to executive director Shirley Brennan.

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Wholesalers can’t keep up with the retail demand and even IKEA will not be selling real trees at its Canadian stores this holiday season.

The world’s biggest furniture brand wasn’t able to secure the necessary local supply of live Christmas trees to meet the needs of its Canadian business this year.

Brennan said we’re losing Christmas tree farms to owners aging out or retiring while growers in the Pacific Northwest are also battling a lack of cooperation from their silent partner: Mother Nature.

“Unfortunately B.C. has been hit very hard this year with weather extremes,” Brennan told Global News.

The summer heat dome and now a flooding disaster, have wreaked havoc on crops which take a decade to cultivate.

“For ten years, you have nurtured those trees and then for this to happen,” said Brennan.

“It is devastating.”

Read more: ‘A supply shortage out there’: Christmas tree demand high during second year of COVID-19 pandemic

At Z & Z Christmas Trees in Richmond, Gord Ferguson said all his trees from Washington and Oregon arrived despite record high summer temperatures in both states, but the aftermath of our province’s disastrous flooding is having an impact.

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“These rains and that heat dome we’ve never had that in our lives,” Ferguson told Global News.

Seventy-five per cent of his pre-cut alpine firs from Merritt arrived early on Nov. 14,  just before the storm stranded his delivery person for days.

“There’s still a hundred trees of mine sitting in his yard.”

All of Ferguson’s cheaper and long lasting Charlie Brown trees are stuck in Cranbrook due to closures and delays along Highway 3.

“It is unprecedented,” said Ferguson.

“Everybody feels it you know, the climate is changing.”

Click to play video: 'Fire destroys up to 1,000 trees at Nanaimo’s Gogo Christmas Tree Farm' Fire destroys up to 1,000 trees at Nanaimo’s Gogo Christmas Tree Farm
Fire destroys up to 1,000 trees at Nanaimo’s Gogo Christmas Tree Farm – Jul 29, 2021

At Pine Meadows Tree Farms in Chilliwack, Arthur Loewen has been growing the holiday staple since 1970.

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“I’ve never seen anything like this at this time of year,” the longtime tree farmer told Global News.

The majority of his u-cut trees were under water for a week but Loewen said they’re a hearty crop and will survive the flooding.

With Highway 1 open west of Chilliwack, Loewen said his cut trees have now been delivered and more are being cut for transport.

Customers he said, are also returning to choose and cut their own trees as waters have receded.

“Heavy rain is not [going to] stop us,” said Loewen.

But the heat dome was something Loewen said they’ve never experienced before.

Click to play video: 'Christmas tree shortage for 2021' Christmas tree shortage for 2021
Christmas tree shortage for 2021 – Nov 26, 2021

Read more: Fires to floods: How extreme weather has played out in B.C. in 2021

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“Our temperatures hit 45 degrees,” said Loewen.

The intense heat was unforgiving and Loewen expects to lose up to 1,000 younger trees that were damaged.

“The new growth was so tender that it just burnt it,” he said.

“Some it burnt right into the stem. Those trees will probably be no good for us.”

The industry expects u-cut farms will run out of trees earlier while some buyers are also picking their pre-cut trees sooner than later.

“To make sure we have a chance to get a tree because we don’t know what it’s [going to] be like this year,” said tree buyer Christian Bacon.

“We tend to overreact as consumers but you just never know,” added Henry Kwaksistala.

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