By Taylor Estes
CAROLINA REPORTER & NEWS
If you usually buy a real Christmas tree to celebrate your holiday season, you might be out of luck this year.
Tree farms across the nation are reporting that they don’t have enough supply to meet the rising demand for live Christmas trees. According to Steve Penland, secretary of the South Carolina Christmas Tree Association, this is the biggest shortage he has seen in a few years.
“The popularity of the live, or real, Christmas tree has started evolving. We’re seeing that generation Y is looking to go back to tradition and do things like they did when they were young, like pick out a tree with the family. Demand is going up,” Penland said.
Bryan Price, owner of Price's Christmas Tree Farm in Lexington, has also seen an increase in the demand for his trees in the past few years.
"We now open before Thanksgiving to meet demand every year, it's what the customers expect," Price said.
Price's Christmas Trees is a family-owned business that was started by Bryan Price's father in 1984. Bryan Price and his wife, Leah Price, grow their own trees on their family property, but they normally order their Fraser fir trees from North Carolina to be sold at their lot.
"We were warned by the company that sends our Fraser firs back in the summer that supply was going to be short and prices were going to go up," Bryan Price said. "I suspect it is due to rising demand, as well as a few other reasons like wildfires, storms, and the lack of business back in the 2000s."
Live Christmas tree sales were at all time lows then and the industry is still feeling the effects of the shifting change in demand.
“Back in the early 2000’s many Christmas tree farms went out of business because no one was buying the trees,” Penland said, agreeing with Price. “After that, farmers began planting less trees to stay even with the low demand.
“Prices are up 10 to 20 percent in some locations and certain tree types will probably be more expensive than others due to higher demand,” Penland said. “I just hope prices stay affordable for those wanting a tree.”
It takes five to seven years for a tree to reach maturity, and fir trees, which tend to be the most popular, take even longer. The combined higher demand and lowered supply of trees from the effects of previous years have people buying their trees earlier than usual.
“Already in North Carolina, which is the number two producer of Christmas trees in the nation, we’re seeing trees selling out,” Penland said.
The number one producer of Christmas trees is in the Pacific northwest, with Oregon and Washington producing the leading number of trees. Tree farmers in both states have reported similar shortages in tree supply.
"It's unfortunate to see, and we hate to have to raise the prices on people for the Fraser firs from North Carolina," Price said. "However, I can't say I'm not happy to see more people buying real Christmas trees. I think our farm would make my dad proud if he was alive today."
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