Christmas trees under threat from supply chain issues

American tree growers and artificial tree makers have warned of soaring prices and strangled supply due to the global shipping crisis

Io Dodds
San Francisco
Saturday 27 November 2021 21:46
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<p>Christmas tree grower Illan Kessler, 48, loads a truck in Nashua, New Hampshire on 21 November 2021</p>

Christmas tree grower Illan Kessler, 48, loads a truck in Nashua, New Hampshire on 21 November 2021

Chaos in the global supply chain has finally come for one of America’s most sacred seasonal rituals: the Christmas tree.

US industry bodies warned this week that deliveries of new trees in the US could be strained this year due to the ongoing shipping squeeze and the climate crisis.

The American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA), which represents artificial-tree makers, said shipping costs could quadruple compared to last year, potentially raising consumer prices by 20 to 30 per cent.

Meanwhile the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), which represents live-tree growers, told the Washington Post that tree stocks are 10 per cent lower due to this summer’s heat and drought on the US west coast.

“This is not the year to wait until the last minute," said ACTA executive director Jami Warner on Tuesday. “Christmas is not canceled. There will be real and artificial Christmas trees this season, but it might be harder to find exactly what you want, when you want it, and at the price you expected.”

She said many artificial trees and ornaments are stuck at sea due to congestion in ports, with vendors still waiting for more than half of the products they have ordered at a time of year when they would usually have received about 70 per cent.

However, NCTA seasonal spokesman Doug Hundley said the problems were much bigger for artificial-tree vendors than real-tree vendors, because the former are usually shipped from overseas whereas the latter are largely shipped within the US and often bought locally.

Trees are stacked and readied to be put on pallets at the Yattendon farm in West Berkshire, UK

Industries great and small have been hamstrung by disruptions in the global supply network. Higher than expected consumer demand after the first peak of the pandemic has combined with widespread staff shortages to cause massive logjams at ports, truck-loading zones and rail depots.

Because the system is so delicate and interconnected, delays in any part of it can reverberate down the chain as trucks stand waiting for trains waiting for ports to unload ships still waiting to dock.

Meanwhile, drought and wildfires driven by global warming have destroyed many trees in America's Pacific Northwest region, which provides about 25 per cent of the country's total supply.

Young trees that can easily be fit inside people's houses were especially vulnerable to the extreme weather. A lull in tree planting after the financial crash of 2008 has also restricted this year's crop, as many trees take 10-12 years to grow to the right size.

Growers across the country told various US media outlets that they were experiencing colossal demand for the trees they had available and were having to raise prices as a result.

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