Holiday shoppers might have to fork over a little more for the evergreen scent of a natural Christmas tree this year as a shortage south of the border and increased demand for real trees put pressure on prices.
Canadian Christmas tree farmers are raising prices as much as 10 per cent as the effect of market forces making firs, pines and spruces sparse in the U.S. spills over into Canada.
Jimmy Downey, president of the Quebec Christmas Tree Growers Association, said it’s a relief that he’s been able to raise his wholesale price by about 10 per cent this year.
“It’s the first time we can raise our prices in a good eight year, ten years,” he said.
“The cost of fertilizer, the cost of labour was always on the rise, so players that weren’t efficient had to sell out their farms.”
Eastern Canada should have plenty of trees this year, but British Columbia, which has generally imported trees from the U.S., might see some shortages, Downey said.
Prices in Canada are reflecting that, with the average price of Christmas tree running $39 in B.C., $34 in Alberta, and just $27 in Ontario, according to data from Square Communications.
Tight supply in the U.S. is due to farmers planting fewer trees seven to 10 years ago because at the time oversupply and the Great Recession combined to push down prices, according to the U.S. National Christmas Tree Association. Several dry seasons have stunted tree growth there.
In addition, many farmers in the U.S. and Canada have dropped out of the business. The number of hectares devoted to Christmas trees in Canada dropped to 23,787 in 2016 from 28,315 in 2011, while the number of farms fell to 1,872 from 2,381, according to Statistics Canada.
The drop is coming not only from increasing costs, but also because older tree farmers have been struggling to find someone to keep the operations going, said Shirley Brennan of the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association.
“The farmers and the plantations are getting older, and there’s no one to take over from them.”
She said the farm numbers are dropping even as demand has been rising for several years, with this one looking particularly strong.
To help boost sales, Christmas tree associations have been pooling money for marketing campaigns to buy natural, as well as skinnier and shorter trees that can fit into smaller homes and apartments.