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Christmas tree forecast: High demand, adequate supply
 
By Doug Graves
Ohio Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The hunt for a Christmas tree is on for plenty of families wanting to snag the perfect Fraser fir or pine for their homes this year.
But spending on a real Christmas tree is yet another expense for households to add to their holiday budgets at the time when inflation remains a pesky problem that’s keeping prices elevated on a variety of products and services.
On average, farmers across the country are promising there will be an adequate supply of trees this year. It typically takes eight to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree, depending on the variety and location, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, a trade group representing growers.
“I haven’t heard of any community where people haven’t been able to get a Christmas tree and I don’t expect that will be the case this year,” said Tim O’Connor, executive director of the association.
Still, O’Connor said farms are working with a tight, but sufficient supply of trees.
“There is an increase in trees coming but it’s not ready to harvest yet,” he said. “This has been the situation since 2016.”
According to the association, the Christmas tree shortage started in 2006, but consumers felt the impact much more starting in 2020. As people were homebound due to the pandemic, there was a surge in demand for trees. As a result, suppliers cut and shipped trees that normally would have been given another year to grow. This resulted in a shortage for the 2021 holiday season, as well as higher prices. This carried through to the 2022 season as well, as the lingering effects of early harvest, combined with drought and wildfire, meant that Christmas trees were harder to find and more expensive in 2022.
Fast forward to 2023, and things have shifted a little bit. As far as trees go, farms are promising there will be an adequate supply of trees this year. There is not an oversupply of trees, but there are enough to go around. One area, however, where availability could be an issue is for those people who want to buy Christmas trees wholesale to resell at tree lots of for fundraisers.
Valerie Graham, executive director of the Ohio Christmas Tree Association, agrees that the tree shortage began during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we look at the COVID, more and more folks were going out to the farm. They continued to do that after the pandemic,” Graham said. “That’s a good thing for growers here in the state of Ohio and growers across the country. However, it kind of put a pinch in the demand that we had for Christmas trees.”
Farmers like Will Stribny, manager at Shawnee Trail Tree Farm in Hudson, Ohio, north of Akron, are still catching up to meet the increase in demand.
“It’s just a matter of planting as many trees as possible and trying to keep them alive,” he said. “If every single one of my trees survived that I planted, we would be fine. We’d have more trees than we need. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to kind of cut your losses.”
If farmers were able to plant a thousand trees, they’d only expect about 40 percent to make it to the ideal, 6-foot size and shape to be able to sell, Stribny said. About 20 percent die in the first year, while another 20 percent just wouldn’t have that “perfect” tree look.
“Trees can be affected by fluctuating weather patterns like heavy rain and periods of drought. But this year provided excellent growing conditions for trees at Shawnee Trail Tree Farm,” Stribny said.
“We had some good rain in the early spring and then it kind of dried up until late June. Then we had good rain from June until about the second week of August.”
The majority of experts agree that natural Christmas tree prices will be about 10 to 15 percent higher this year than last year.
For many families, the ongoing higher prices have them taking a longer look at artificial trees. Of the 94 million U.S. households that display a tree, the National Christmas Tree Association estimates that about eight in 10 will favor artificial ones this year. But those opting for an artificial tree will likely still see higher prices as well.
12/19/2023