By Isabella Diez, Co-President
Supply chain issues are having an affect on holiday shopping and are also causing shortages of another Christmas season necessity – the Christmas tree.
Canada is currently experiencing a Christmas tree shortage which may cause disappointment for some consumers this Christmas season. These shortages are due to a number of factors: disruptions in the supply chain, climate change, increases in demand, and lack of land.
Many farmers are struggling to find trucks to transport their trees, a problem due to a labour shortage. In addition, the cost of shipping containers has skyrocketed. Last year vendors paid between $2,000-3,000 and this year the cost of one container can be up to $20,000. With these high transportation costs, consumers can expect a 25% increase in Christmas tree prices.
Climate change has attacked this industry in a multitude of ways. Extreme flooding has drowned and swept away young trees and seedlings. In the summer, intense heat has burned trees down to the ground with no chance of recovery. Quebec and Nova Scotia experienced frost in June which killed off seedlings. High winds have dried out trees. These effects of climate change have threatened the survival and the future of many Christmas tree farms in Canada.
Canada currently exports almost half of Christmas trees each year, however this year farmers have not even been able to meet the demands of local consumers. Since 2015, sales of Christmas trees have grown steadily by 15% per year. Last year, tree sales saw a dramatic increase as people tried to combat challenges brought on by the pandemic with a festive holiday spirit. To meet these immediate demands, farmers harvested many trees prematurely. Unless we see a decrease in demand for trees, shortages will become an annual occurrence.
Director of the Canadian Christmas Trees Association, Shirley Brennan shared that, “It’s not gonna get easier for the foreseeable future.”
The amount of land allocated to growing these trees has decreased significantly. In 2011, 69,000 acres of land were used for growing Christmas trees and in 2016 this number was 58,780 – a 17% decrease. Many Christmas tree farms are operated by couples who are in their early to mid seventies or are family-owned. When these owners can no longer operate these businesses they typically pass the farms down to their children. But unfortunately, many children do not want to continue running the family farm. Consequently, many farms close down. As well, the cost of land is very expensive and people cannot afford to operate these farms.
Will there be future Christmas seasons with significantly fewer Christmas trees? If the industry continues to be harshly affected by multiple factors, then it is possible. To survive, Christmas tree farms need to develop strategies to adapt to the current challenges. One tactic is to reduce the numbers of trees that are exported. Another is to employ certain practices to combat climate change effects, such as using pruning techniques after frost.
This nationwide shortage is expected to become an annual Christmas issue. If you are hoping to celebrate Christmas this year with a Christmas tree, plan accordingly and purchase a tree early.