Christmas tree sellers in London feeling the pinch from ongoing shortage | CBC News


The Christmas holidays are just one month away, but already those who grow and sell trees in the London area are warning that low supply and high demand will make pines and firs and spruce trees pricier than previous seasons. 

The shortage is fuelled by inflation, supply chain issues and a drought catching up to farmers in southwestern Ontario.

That means customers should expect higher-than-usual prices on trees, including for the crowd-pleasing Fraser fir, the most common type of tree sold for the holidays.

“We don’t know what the weather is going to be like and we didn’t think southwestern Ontario was going to have a dry fall. So, that was unexpected,” said Shirley Brennan, executive director of the Canadian Christmas Tree Association.

London has been in a drought that affects Christmas tree growth, and that’s expected to continue for the next couple of years, she said.

Christin and Tom Ebert sell Christmas trees at Little Creek Tree Farm and say it’s getting harder to meet demand every year (Clement Goh/ CBC News)

“Sometimes the consumers are unaware that not all tree species will grow and that’s why they may notice they’re not getting as many Fraser firs as they want, because (growers) have to bring them in,” Brennan said.

A decade to grow

More than 20,000 acres of Christmas trees were lost from 2011 to 2021, the Canadian Christmas Tree Association estimated.

“That 20,000 acres is equivalent to 30 million trees, Brennan said. “Demand has gone up and we certainly see farms are closing earlier.” 

Most Christmas trees like the Fraser fir take an average of a decade to grow. 

Supplies in Canada have struggled to keep up with bigger demand over the years. Canada exports almost half of its trees while others are grown on farms including ones in southwestern Ontario. Drier weather can affect deadlines for farmers cutting trees down in time for sale.

“It’s not a manufactured product, so it’s not like tomorrow we could just go out into the shop and start creating them again,” said Christin Ebert, co-owner of Little Creek Tree Farm in Thorndale, outside of London. “The growth that it takes to get these trees to maturity is time and years.”

Ebert and her husband Tom have 165 Fraser fir trees to sell this year without restocking. Every tree had to be ordered more than a year ago from suppliers, with competition from other tree-sellers across Canada, Ebert said. 

The most popular Christmas tree is the Fraser fir, a tree that takes an average of ten years to grow. (Clement Goh/ CBC News)

Little Creek Tree Farm had to reduce their margins to keep their pre-cut Christmas trees affordable for families this year.

“The price to get the trees in was higher than we expected this year. We wonder, at what price point does it become too much for the homeowners?” said Tom Ebert. 

Customers will be paying ten per cent more for Fraser fir trees this year, with the biggest sizes, 3m to 4 m (10 feet to12 feet) costing almost $200. Ebert is expecting plenty of phone calls and walk-ins from families for the next two weekends.

“I know last year they went quickly,” he said.

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