Christmas tree lots are reporting supply shortages and higher prices this holiday season.
People looking for live Christmas trees should start shopping sooner, according to a press release from Evergrow, a Fraser Valley company that delivers potted trees and then replants them after the holidays.
“We’re talking to farmers who are telling us over a third of their trees for the season are damaged so badly they can’t sell them,” said Evergrow CEO Paige Wheaton. “Many farms are planning to open for only one or two weekends in November because they know they will be sold out by then.”
Joan Fleming said that while her Vancouver Island farm, Saanichton Christmas Tree Farm, has plenty of supply, many tree lots that import trees rather than grow them are struggling to meet demand.
“A lot of wholesale lots, they’re having a hard time getting trees because there is a shortage because of that heat dome and those trees got scorched, whereas luckily, mine didn’t,” Fleming said.
Happy Holidays Christmas Tree Co., a pop-up holiday shop in Langford that sells trees and other gifts, said the two B.C. tree farms they have worked with have had some setbacks as well.
While extreme heat is partly to blame, Debbie Stroshein the owner of Happy Holidays Christmas Tree Co., said there are many reasons for low inventory and high prices, including fewer local farmers.
“More and more of the tree farmers are retiring with no longevity plan,” Stroshein said. “Two large producers I’ve worked with in the last five years have closed or drastically reduced inventory. I am seeing more and more trees grown in the U.S.A. showing up on racks here.”
Stroshein said that the cost of getting trees to Victoria has also doubled in the past two years, which is contributing to the spike in prices for consumers.
For previous seasons, Stronshein said she was able to source locally, but with shifting dynamics in the industry such as older farmers retiring and U.S. markets buying Canadian, she’s had to import some of her trees from other places.
According to the press release, farm owners and experts are citing 2021 as one of the worst growing years since the ‘80s, but Kelly Chashai from Metchosin’s Down to Earth Nursery said today’s tree supply is still being impacted by wildfires from years ago.
“Even though the fires weren’t so bad this year, that did have a big effect as trees take about seven to 10 years to grow before they are cut,” Chashai said. “So the events of five years ago and three years ago are really impacting today.”
Most of the trees that Down to Earth Nursery is selling this season come from the Fraser Valley and across B.C., and they are not having issues keeping up with demand. However, for smaller and less established Christmas tree lots, keeping prices low during inflation and maintaining supply is a struggle that Stroshein anticipates being around for a while.
“It’s changing,” she said. “I’m not sure what that future looks like for a lot of small businesses. Some really small ones I know of have disappeared altogether.”