Christmas tree shortages aren’t just because of the pandemic

Weather & Traffic In-Depth

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For some people, decorating a Christmas tree is even more important these days.

“A very warming and family remembering sensation that people missed out on during COVID,” was how Tony Davis from Austin described the feeling of decorating a Christmas tree this time of year.

That’s one of the reasons demand for Christmas trees has been so high the past two holiday seasons, as people emphasized experiences with a few loved ones during a pandemic.

At the same time, supply is constrained, thanks to higher fuel prices and a truck driver shortage.

“That is something that has, in many cases, tripled as to what many growers and retailers were paying just last year. Just a huge increase in freight charges and freight costs and that, of course, has the trickle-down effect of raising tree prices a little bit,” says Beau Coan, Operations Manager at Papa Noel Christmas Trees in Austin.

At Papa Noel’s, they’ve had to raise prices on their 6ft. to 8ft. trees by 8% or 9% over last year. Trees over 12ft. have gone up even more, by as much as 12%.

They get most of their trees from their farm in North Carolina, but some come from California and Oregon, where climate change is playing a small part in limiting supply as well.

Coan added, “Growers they won’t cut an inferior product, so if a field of trees is a little dry or gotten sun damage because of the drought, they’ll hold off on that and they’ll try to just wait a year or two and see if we get enough rainfall.” And the supply and demand imbalance didn’t start with the pandemic.

Many of the issues related to the current shortage of Christmas trees stems back to the 2007-2008 Great Recession that happened at the same time as an overabundance of Christmas trees, which forced a lot of small growers out of the business.

A few years later, the big growers expanded, but since it takes 8 to 10 years to fully grow a tree, experts say we won’t see a return to normal stock for another year or two.

Until then you may have to adapt to higher tree costs.

“Probably opt for a smaller tree and bite the bullet and hope for the best,” said Mathew Venneman from Austin.

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