Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday December 4, 2021
Welcome to the new tradition of Christmas tree shortages
With reports of tree shortages across Canada this year, the Christmas tree industry is warning that low inventory could become an issue every holiday season.
“It’s not gonna get easier for the foreseeable future,” said Shirley Brennan, the executive director of the Canadian Christmas Trees Association, which represents hundreds of tree farmers across the country.
Sales of Canadian Christmas trees have been growing by about 15 per cent a year since 2015, said Brennan.
And unless demand falls off, a Christmas tree shortage is likely to continue because fewer trees are being planted and climate change is affecting their growth and survival.
“I can see it being ongoing,” said Alison McCrindle, co-owner of Chickadee Christmas Trees in Puslinch, Ont.
Tree sellers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. have all told CBC News about inventory issues they’re facing this year.
An anxious Nevesha Persad Maharaj was at Chickadee for the farm’s opening day on Nov. 26 — much earlier than her family had ever shopped for a tree.
“We came out a couple of weeks earlier and, even for us, we were thinking it was a little bit late,” she said.
One possibly worrisome sign for the future: The current shortage forced Ikea Canada to abandon its practice of selling live trees this year, because the retailer said it was “unable to secure the necessary local supply.”
Canada exports about 49 per cent of the Christmas trees grown here — and most of the trees that end up in Canadian homes are homegrown, said Brennan. Quebec grows the most Christmas trees in the country by far, followed by Nova Scotia, Ontario and New Brunswick.
The problem is that over time, the amount of land dedicated to Christmas tree production has been shrinking.
In 2011, there were just under 2,400 Christmas tree farms in Canada, with about 28,000 hectares (69,000 acres) of land under cultivation, according to Statistics Canada data. By 2016, the number of farms totalled just under 1,900, with around 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres) of land under cultivation.
One reason why there’s less land being used to grow Christmas trees is because a number of tree farms are family businesses, said Brennan, and the average grower is between 70 and 75.
Growing trees isn’t easy and when a farmer’s children aren’t interested in taking over, the land may be turned to other uses or not farmed at all, she said. (CBC)