Supply chain issues, climate change creates shortage of Christmas trees

One rainy Thursday afternoon, Joseph Hoey and his family were in the Pinery Christmas Trees grounds in Del Mar picking a tree. He was with his wife, daughter and granddaughters.

“In fact, we come here every year,” he said.

The Hoey’s started searching for their tree later this year than usual. They usually buy their trees at the end of November.

“I think there are a lot less than last year or the year before,” Hoey said.

He doesn’t imagine things. The Pinery Lot in Del Mar is usually full of trees this time of year. But now it’s half empty.

Alexandre Nguyen / KPBS

A “sold” tag on a tree in the Pinery Christmas Trees lot in Del Mar, California, December 9, 2021.

“The big problem this year is that there is definitely a shortage of Christmas trees. 100%,” said Pinery owner Mike Osborne. “Not so much in the small things, but in the bigger ones.”

Part of the reason for the shortage is due to inclement weather this summer in the Pacific Northwest, where most Christmas trees are grown. In June and July, the region experienced an extreme heatwave linked to climate change which triggered several fires.

“A lot of the noble firs that were ready to market this year have been burned,” Osborne said. “And so a lot of the trees that were tagged to be put on the market this year in Southern California, couldn’t make it.”

Farmers in Oregon have said they lost up to 90% of their harvest this summer, according to the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA), an industry trade group.

Another reason for the shortage is pent-up demand for Christmas trees due to the pandemic. Last year has been a huge year for sales, Osborne said.

“Because of COVID, because everyone was at home, they weren’t traveling, they weren’t going anywhere, they weren’t taking vacations. And so everyone bought this Christmas tree last year. “, did he declare. “Maybe they cut a little too much last year and they sold more trees in the Pacific Northwest.”

It takes about five to seven years before a tree can be harvested.

This year, the demand for Christmas trees remains high. About 94 million homes, or 75% of U.S. households, said they would display a tree for the holiday season, according to the ACTA survey. Almost 6.5 million households said they would display live and artificial trees this year.

The supply chain disruption caused by the global pandemic is also affecting the supply of artificial trees, so expect to pay more for live and artificial trees this year, the association said.

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Alexandre Nguyen / KPBS

The prize for a large Nordmann tree on the Pinery Christmas Trees lot in Del Mar, California on December 9, 2021.

The increase is mainly due to supply and demand, labor shortages and rising shipping costs, Osborne said.

The cost of live Christmas trees has nearly doubled since 2015, according to the Agriculture Ministry. This season, retailers are reporting a 20-30% price hike for artificial trees.

After browsing, the Hoey’s finally chose their Christmas trees.

“We usually get a 6 or 7 foot Nordmann,” Joseph Hoey. “But this year we have a noble tree. So we love the trees here. They are still of good quality.”

Her daughter, Victoria, chose a smaller tree because she and her daughters live in a small apartment. But the lack of trees (and the rain) somehow cooled her Christmas spirit.

“I think it’s just a little sad because Christmas is supposed to be a little bigger and brighter. But it’s raining today, and it’s not full of trees like most of the time when we come. (in these) places, “Victoria Hoey said. . “I haven’t been here before this year, but usually when I go somewhere there are a lot of trees.”

Osborne said most of its large trees have been sold, but there are still plenty of small and medium trees available.

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