B.C. Christmas trees in short supply

Christmas tree lots in greater Victoria are reporting shortages and rising prices this holiday season.

People looking for live Christmas trees should start shopping early, according to a press release from Evergrow, a company that offers trees that are potted and replanted after the holidays.

“We’re talking to farmers and they’re telling us that over a third of their trees this season are too damaged to sell,” said Paige Wheaton, Evergrow’s chief executive. Because they know it’s going to be sold out.”

Joan Fleming said that while her farm, Saanichton Christmas Tree Farm, has plenty of supplies, many woodlands that import trees rather than plant them are struggling to meet demand.

“A lot of wholesale locations are having a hard time getting trees because of the heat dome shortage and charred trees, and luckily mine didn’t,” Fleming said.

Happy Holidays Christmas Tree Co., a temporary holiday store in Langford that sells trees and other gifts, said the two BC tree farms they work with have also experienced some setbacks.

While extreme heat is partly to blame, Debbie Stroshein, owner of Happy Holidays Christmas Tree Co., said there are a number of reasons for the low inventory and high prices, including fewer local farmers.

“An increasing number of forest farmers are retiring without a longevity plan,” Stroshein said. “Two of the big producers I’ve worked with in the past five years have either closed or drastically reduced their stock. I’m seeing more and more American-grown trees appearing on the shelves here.”

The cost of transporting trees to Victoria has also doubled in the past two years, sending consumer prices soaring, Mr Stroshein said.

For previous seasons, Stronshein said she was able to source locally, but as industry dynamics changed, such as older farmers retiring and the U.S. market buying Canadians, she had to import some trees from elsewhere.

Farmers and experts are calling 2021 one of the worst years for growth since the 80s, according to a press release, but Kelly Chashai of Down-to-earth Nurseries in Metchosin said today’s tree supply is still affected by wildfires from years ago.

“Even though the fires weren’t as severe this year, it did have a big impact because it took about seven to 10 years for trees to grow before they were felled,” Chashai said. “So the events of five years ago and three years ago do have an impact today.”

Most of the trees Down to Earth Nursery is selling this season come from the Fraser Valley and across BC, and they have had no problem meeting demand. They will even have a competition where four local schools will decorate a tree in their greenhouse, and patrons can vote for the winner. The winning school will receive $500 and a free pizza lunch at the Metchosin Cafe.

However, for smaller and less mature Christmas tree lots, Stroshein expects keeping prices low and maintaining supply during inflation to be a tough task.

“It’s changing,” she said. “I’m not sure what the future holds for a lot of small businesses. Some of the very small animals that I know of have completely disappeared.”

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