Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday December 2, 2023
Rooting for Tradition: The Christmas Tree Price Surge Forces a Festive Dilemma
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but for many, this year’s festive cheer comes with a hefty price tag. The evergreen centrepiece of our holiday celebrations, the live Christmas tree, is bearing the brunt of inflation, making us question whether it’s time to reconsider the allure of artificial alternatives.
Inflation, that Grinch of economic woes, is playing the role of the party pooper this holiday season. The cost of bringing home a fragrant fir or a noble fir is skyrocketing, with a roughly 10 percent increase across Canada, thanks to a confluence of factors. Higher fuel prices, escalating fertilizer costs, labor expenses, climate change, and even insurance premiums for Christmas tree farms are all contributing to the festive financial strain.
Picture this: a Christmas tree lot resembling a car dealership, with families being told, “If you’d like to step inside the dealership, we could explore financing options.” It’s a scenario that reflects the stark reality of our times, where even holiday traditions are becoming subject to economic negotiations.
Shirley Brennan, the executive director of the Canadian Christmas Trees Association, highlights the significant spike in fertilizer costs, with some regions experiencing an alarming 50 percent increase. The repercussions extend to insurance premiums, which have doubled for some farms, reaching a staggering $15,000 per year for one Christmas tree farmer.
While the reasons behind the surge in prices are diverse and complex, ranging from retiring farmers to extreme weather events affecting crop yields, the undeniable truth is that the cost of Christmas trees is spiralling out of control.
George Powell, a seasoned tree farmer from Bowmanville, Ontario, recounts the evolution of the industry over his 40-year tenure. Seedling prices have surged from a modest 10 cents each to a hefty $1.50, reflecting the broader trend of escalating costs in the Christmas tree business. Despite the challenges, Powell sees a surge in demand, potentially fuelled by a shortage that traces its roots back to the 2008 financial crisis.
The impact of the financial crisis on farmers is akin to a time-delayed holiday Grinch. As Jordan Bishop, founder and CEO of Yore Oyster, points out, Christmas trees take around 15 years to reach full height, and the consequences of reduced planting during the 2007-2008 recession are now hitting consumers’ wallets.
Canada, a major exporter of Christmas trees, shipped around 2.5 million trees worth approximately $163.5 million in 2022. However, the looming shortage has prompted a reconsideration of export strategies, with some farms redirecting their inventory to meet domestic demand.
In the face of this Christmas tree crisis, consumers are left to grapple with tough decisions. Do we continue to shell out more money for a live tree, or is it time to consider the synthetic allure of artificial alternatives? The latter, once scorned for lacking the authentic charm of a real tree, may now be a pragmatic choice for budget-conscious and environmentally aware consumers.
The looming shortage and rising prices might prompt a shift in consumer preferences, with smaller trees gaining popularity and larger ones demanding a premium. As Bishop suggests, the 2022 experience may make tree sellers more strategic in pricing, possibly driving some consumers towards the simplicity of artificial trees.
As Christmas tree prices soar and availability dwindles, the season of giving is becoming a season of financial compromise. The traditional joy of selecting and decorating a live tree is now tinged with the reality of economic constraints. Perhaps, as we deck the halls, it’s time to ponder whether an artificial tree might be the gift we give ourselves in these financially turbulent times. (AI) From sketch to finish, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro. If you’re creative, give illustration a try: