Christmas tree shortage because of supply chain issues, climate change

Richmond township employee, Peak Tree Farms, holds a wrapped tree.

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Want to buy a Christmas tree this year? You may have better luck when you ask Santa to bring you one.

Christmas tree sellers say they will have fewer trees available for sale this holiday season due to the double whammy of supply chain problems and climate change.

The shortfall in supply compared to projected demand will affect the markets for both natural and artificial trees, according to sellers.

“Demand this year is going to be very strong, and so I think from a consumer point of view people definitely shouldn’t wait,” explained Chris Butler, CEO of National Tree Company, the largest importer and wholesaler of artificial Christmas trees and holiday decorations.

“Consumers have to buy now because by the time we get to Thanksgiving, which is peak week for us, I think there will be a lot of empty shelves. We’re really seeing very strong growth now compared to last year and so, I think we’re in for a big, big season this year. “.

Butler said a steady increase in consumer spending on household goods throughout the pandemic, general fatigue from two years of Covid-19, as well as large gatherings this winter due to vaccinations were indicators of higher demand this season.

“If you see something you like, buy it,” advised Jamie Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association. Warner explained that ongoing supply chain disruptions have particularly affected artificial trees, which are mostly imported from Asia and take longer than usual to reach the United States.

“The quantities this year will be lower than usual, and of course the consumer will have to bear the brunt of the price hike. It will not be much higher, but it will be higher,” she added.

A shopper pushes a cart across a display of artificial Christmas trees at Home Depot Inc. In Newark, New Jersey, US, on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

Emil Wamsticker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The global supply chain – the connective tissue of commerce – is under pressure from rising consumer demand, labor shortages and manufacturing delays abroad. Supply chain disruptions, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, have driven up shipping costs, delivery times and inflation.

explained Cheryl Druehl, supply chain expert and professor at George Mason University School of Business.

“Our supply chains tend to be fairly long and have always been vulnerable but the pandemic has made it even more evident. We have been under lockdown all over the world at different times causing significant delays and shortages, and now with production recovering, ports and logistics are And trucks all stressed.”

Each year, Butler said, he pays for thousands of shipping containers to move product from manufacturing facilities in China to the United States.

“Since May, because of the Covid-19 backups, getting containers has been just a real struggle,” Butler said, adding that he saw prices start to rise in June.

“Last year we paid $2,000 to $3,000 for containers and this year we are paying in the region $20,000. We decided to pay the exorbitant prices that were charged to make sure we got as many containers as possible,” Butler said, adding that he was short of 1,000 containers but what was done was done. Almost 90% of his requests.

Butler said consumers this year will likely see a 25% increase in prices this year due to higher transportation costs.

Climate disruption is a real factor for trees

Christmas trees are loaded onto a freight truck at Downey Tree Farm and Nursery in Hatley, Quebec, Canada, November 12, 2021.

kristen pussy | Reuters

This year, Warner says, it will also be difficult for consumers to market real Christmas trees thanks to a combination of supply chain disruptions and weather disasters affected by climate change.

“Christmas tree growers are also having problems shipping because they can’t find trucks to move the trees they have to market,” Warner explained when asked about the potential shortage of trees.

Moreover, while Christmas trees are planted all over the country, the majority of America’s trees come from Oregon and Washington, and they have borne the brunt of extreme weather events.

“Floods, heat waves, wildfires, and smoke from fires have really disrupted farmers in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest,” Warner said.

Christmas tree grower France Cook, owner of the Middleburg Christmas Tree Farm in Northern Virginia, echoed similar concerns about climate change.

“Climate change affects all of agriculture in different ways,” he explained, adding that some trees that have grown on a large scale are now under siege by fungi that have emerged with changing weather conditions.

“So the price of trees is obviously going up and that’s in part because we’re lowering their prices,” he said, adding that this year he will pass a $50 raise to consumers.

However, Warner says don’t panic.

“There will be a real and artificial Christmas tree for everyone who wants to celebrate one. It may not be exactly the type, size or color you want,” she said, adding that consumers should aim to do their holiday shopping. As soon as possible.

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