It’s that time of the year. With just a month left until Christmas, the demand for trees has gone up, say industry experts — and so have prices.
According to Shirley Brennan, the executive director of the Canadian Christmas Trees Association, there has been an average increase of 10 per cent in the price of trees across the country this year.
When it comes to pricing, there is no standard or average cost for Christmas trees, explains Brennan, and the uptick can partially be blamed on inflation.
“The increase (in prices) is solely due to the fact that the cost of running our farms has increased, so like everything with inflation, we are feeling the effects of it as well,” Brennan told Global News.
The pricing of trees varies across regions, according to Brennan.
And that is because every farm has its own way of harvesting and pruning, so “the costs are unique to the farm,” she explained.
Despite the price hike, demand has continued to grow, says Brennan.
“We were about $53-million industry in 2015 and we were a $ 100-million industry in 2020. So, our demand has risen … and we certainly had not forecasted such an increase in five years,” said Brennan.
She says this demand could partly be driven by the younger generation, who like to use natural products and are also now starting to move into their own homes.
“I am sure they are coming out (of) their family (homes) and starting their (own) tradition of having a real Christmas tree, so we know that’s impacting and driving the demand,” said Brennan.
Is there a shortage?
At the time, SFU Beedie School of Business assistant professor Feyza Sahinyazan told Global News that he believed some trees were harvested prematurely and sold in 2020 to meet demand during the first year of COVID-19, which contributed to the 2021 shortage.
However, this year, Brennan says she’d “shy away from the word ‘shortage,'” adding that “there are lots of Christmas trees out there.”
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Ray Dubois of Ron Paul Garden Centre in Winnipeg told Global News this week that there are enough trees to go around, and he expects a more balanced market this year.
According to Dubois, last year’s live tree shortage pushed up prices across the country. He attributes the surge to the COVID-19 pandemic — with fewer people travelling for the holidays, more were inclined to choose a live tree, he said.
“That first year of COVID, demand was through the roof,” he said. “I think we sold out by Dec. 1, which had never happened.”
Like Dubois, Leanna Anderson, co-owner of Aldor Acres Christmas Trees in British Columbia, says her farm remains well-stocked this year and there’s no need for Canadians to panic and rush the Christmas tree purchase.
“I know there is a high demand for trees, but we’ve grown a lot of trees and we also bring a lot of trees in to supplement what we grow in our fields. So don’t panic, take your time, come in, enjoy,” said Anderson.
However, Brennan says there are still major challenges that affect how many trees are available in the market.
Challenges of Christmas tree farming
One of the main challenges is that Christmas tree farmers are aging, and they have no one to take over their farms, Brennan said.
“We are seeing less and less young people coming into the industry. So, we certainly are losing our acreage and potential farms,” Brennan said.
The other reason, she says, is severe weather that affects the harvest of Christmas trees. Dubois agrees.
Dubois says he got his first shipment of trees Tuesday morning – about a week later than in previous years. Warm weather in Quebec, which is where his supply comes from, pushed back the harvest.
In British Columbia however, drought and a declining number of farms have chopped the province’s Christmas tree supply this year.
Larry Whitehead, director of the B.C. Christmas Tree Association, told Global News last week that some have estimated the shortage to be between 100,000 and 500,000 trees.
“Many growers are retiring and the price of land in B.C. is prohibitive to growing trees now,” Whitehead said. “Many farms are owned by absentee owners, they’re vacant, they’re not being utilized.”
Anderson also agrees that the “industry is changing” with the times. Hers is a fourth-generation farm in Langley, B.C.
“The real estate market is hot. They make a lot more money by selling the farm than by farming it,” she explained.
“Between the heat, the drought, the forest fires, the cost of everything from diesel, labour, feritilizer, seedlings — everything’s gone up. It is harder for somebody to start up.”
At the moment, Brennan said farm owners are increasing the prices of Christmas trees to accommodate the rising costs of maintaining and transporting their harvests.
“There are extra costs involved … (but) it’s not that our prices are going up drastically,” she added.
Brennan says this is why she believes the higher costs aren’t stopping Canadians from buying Christmas trees because people are aware that everything is costing more.
“When you go to get a real Christmas tree, it is a very personal experience … but we’re seeing prices increase because of what’s happening at our farms and people are seeing this happen across the board,” she said.
She said Christmas trees can last longer if well taken care of, explaining that people “must make a fresh cut on the bottom and then put it in water.
“If watered regularly, it will last until after the new year.”
— with files from Global’s Elizabeth McSheffrey, Kristen Robinson and Iris Dyck