Christmas tree shortages due to supply chain problems, climate change

Richmond Township, an employee of Beck Tree Farms, carries a wrapped tree.

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Want to buy a Christmas tree this year? You might be luckier if you ask Santa to bring you one.

Christmas tree sellers say they will have fewer trees to sell this holiday season due to the double whammy associated with supply chain issues and climate change.

According to the sellers, the reduction in supply compared to the expected demand will affect the markets for both natural and artificial trees.

“Demand is going to be extremely high this year, so I think from a consumer perspective, people definitely shouldn’t wait,” explained Chris Butler, CEO of National Tree Company, a leading 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 our peak week, I think there will be a lot of empty shelves. We are already seeing quite strong growth compared to last year, and therefore, I really think that this year we will have a big, big season, ”he added.

Butler said the steady rise in consumer spending for home goods throughout the pandemic, general fatigue from the two-year Covid-19, and larger gatherings this winter due to vaccinations were indicators of higher demand this season.

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

“This year the quantity will be less than usual and of course the consumer will have to bear the brunt of the higher prices. They will not be much higher, but they will be higher, ”she added.

A shopper pushes a cart past a display of artificial Christmas trees at Home Depot Inc. in Newark, NJ, USA, Saturday, December 10, 2011.

Emil Wamstecker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The global supply chain – connective tissue for trade – is under pressure from growing consumer demand, labor shortages and production delays overseas. Supply chain disruptions, further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, have led to increased shipping costs, delivery times and inflation.

“The goal of the supply chain is to get the right products to the right place at the right time in the right condition. If there is a failure, then one of these events does not happen, ”explained Cheryl Drule, a supply chain expert and professor at the George Mason University School of Business.

“Our supply chains are generally quite long and have always been vulnerable, but the pandemic has made this more evident. We’ve had blackouts around the world at various times, causing significant delays and shortages, and now that production is recovering, ports, logistics and trucking have emphasized everything, ”added Druel.

Butler said he pays for thousands of shipping containers each year to transport products from manufacturing plants in China to the United States.

“Since May, due to backups from Covid-19, it has been very difficult to get just containers,” Butler said, adding that prices started to rise in June.

“Last year we paid between $ 2,000 and $ 3,000 for containers, and this year we pay about $ 20,000. We decided we would pay prohibitive rates to ensure we get as many containers as possible, ”Butler said. said, adding that he was short of 1,000 containers, but almost 90% of his orders were fulfilled.

Butler said this year buyers will potentially see prices rise 25% this year due to higher transportation costs.

Climate disturbance is a factor for real trees

Christmas trees are loaded onto a truck for shipment to Downey Tree Farm and Nursery in Hatley, Quebec, Canada on November 12, 2021.

Christine Mushi | Reuters

Warner says that consumers in the market for real Christmas trees will also be challenged this year due to supply chain disruptions and weather-related disasters caused by climate change.

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

What’s more, while Christmas trees are grown all over the country, most trees in America are grown in Oregon and Washington and have taken the brunt of extreme weather events.

“Floods, heat waves, wildfires, and wildfire smoke have really bothered producers in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest,” Warner said.

A Christmas tree farmer, Frans Cock, owner of a Christmas tree farm in Middleburg, northern Virginia, has also expressed concern about the changing climate.

“Climate change affects all agriculture in different ways,” he explained, adding that some of the trees he once cultivated are now being precipitated by a fungus that emerged from changing weather conditions.

“So the price of trees is clearly going up, and that’s in part because we don’t have a lot of them,” he said, adding that he will pass on a $ 50 boost to consumers this year.

However, Warner advises not to panic.

“There will be a real and artificial Christmas tree for everyone who wants to celebrate with it. It just might not be the look, size or color you want, ”she said, adding that consumers should be keen to shop for their holiday shopping. as soon as possible.

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