'A supply shortage out there': Christmas tree demand high during second year of COVID-19 pandemic

Christmas tree farms are facing a double whammy of global supply chain disruptions and climate change this holiday season. Kristen Robinson has more on why you may want to get an early start on tree shopping.

B.C. Christmas tree farms are facing a double whammy of global supply chain troubles and climate crisis-induced natural disasters, and it means the traditional holiday ornaments may be harder to find this year.

The Oh Christmas Tree Farm opened in Langley Saturday and there was no shortage of customers looking to purchase the premium fir trees.

“It takes 10 years to grow a good Christmas tree,” said farm owner Richard Davies.

“We’re getting a combination of supply chain issues and more people and less tree farms, so there is a supply shortage out there.”

Christmas tree sales saw a boom last season as Canadians tried to lift the holiday spirit during the pandemic.

Due to incredible demand, Oh Christmas Tree Farm sold out by the end of November 2020 – when Davies normally sells into mid-December.

This year, he also expects to clear his inventory by the end of the month.

“We’re opening up early you know, for demand and we’re going to close early,” Davies told Global News.

Even IKEA will not be selling real trees at its Canadian stores this holiday season.

In a statement, the world’s biggest furniture brand told Global News it wasn’t able to secure the necessary local supply of live Christmas trees to meet the needs of its Canadian business this year.

IKEA Canada said it’s unfortunate given that its live trees have been a “much-loved tradition” for customers over many years.

Read more:
First toilet paper, now Christmas trees? Coronavirus sparks potential new shortages

SFU Beedie School of Business assistant professor Feyza Sahinyazan believes some trees were harvested prematurely and sold in 2020 to meet demand during the first year of COVID-19, which could contribute to this year’s shortage.

But like almost every global commodity, Sahinyazan said pandemic-related supply chain disruptions including blocked ports, container and labour shortages -– combined with extreme weather events — are fueling the scarcity of Christmas trees.

“Whatever’s happening in the last 10 years actually has a cumulative effect on the supply of the Christmas trees,” Sahinyazan told Global News.

“So if there was a heat wave in 2015, it is still affecting today’s supply.”

Retail strategist David Ian Gray said this past summer’s heat dome and wildfires affected the growing season in the Pacific Northwest.

Artificial trees may be an alternative option but Gray is hearing some orders are being cancelled due to the product’s limited shelf life.

“The retailers are afraid they might get a late shipment, and then get stuck with the trees for a year,” said Gray.

Delivery issues he said, for both fake and live trees were also compounded by recent flooding and landslides which damaged key transportation networks across B.C.

“They’re going to get fixed but much like a car crash on Highway 1, you clear the cars but it takes a long time before the traffic flows back to a normal state,” Gray told Global News.

Local growers suggest buying a fresh-cut tree early and taking care of it at home.

“Get it into water and it should last straight through until probably New Year’s,” said Davies.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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