Find your Christmas tree before it’s too late!

After the shortage of microchips, construction materials and labor, comes the… of Christmas trees! Growers and distributors indicate that trees will be in short supply as the holidays approach. The slogan: hurry up!

With scarcity looming, will you have to choose the first tree that crosses your path? The search for the “most beautiful Christmas tree in the world” risks becoming similar to the search for the Holy Grail again this year. Unless you have a family that lives in the country or starts early, like now, when inventory is high at many merchants.

Balsam fir grower Renaud Audet was hesitant to comment on the longevity of his stock when we met him on a chilly afternoon last week at his kiosk in the parking lot of Place Versailles in eastern Montreal. “I don’t think I’m going to run out of Christmas trees this year, but you never know,” he said, adding that he didn’t plan to go cut down other trees on his land, in Bellechasse, if it ran out. because the snow falling in eastern Quebec would make cutting difficult.

Growing local demand

Several factors have contributed to the Christmas tree shortage in the province. In the first place, it could be said that the industry is a victim of its own success.

“We have been promoting the natural Quebec fir for several years,” says the agronomist and vice president of the Association of Producers of Christmas Trees of Quebec (APANQ), Émilie Turcotte-Côté. And today, we are reaping the fruits of our past efforts, it is the case to say. “

You should know that it takes about ten years for the tree to reach marketable size and that local demand for the natural tree has been very strong in recent years, after a few years of lean cows for various growers, according to Ms. Turcotte. . Results: many have gone bankrupt, left the industry or opted for other more profitable productions.

Consolidation and lack of manpower

The consolidation of the industry has also contributed to reducing the local supply of natural trees. As shortages drove prices up, many of those who had stayed in business opted to sell their businesses to larger companies when it was more profitable for them to do so. The purchase of small producers allowed buyers to aspire to serve large foreign clients due to their higher production volumes.

Also, when we spoke with Émilie Turcotte-Côté, she was busy finalizing the shipment of several thousand trees abroad on behalf of her employer, BL Christmas Trees, from Sherbrooke, who also exports further than Venezuela.

The labor shortage also partly explains why the supply is lower than in the past. Temporary foreign workers are what keep the Christmas tree industry going, as well as agricultural production. Without them, there is no salvation.

At BL Christmas Trees, for example, which does not sell directly to individuals, about 200 foreign workers come to help, out of a team of about 225 people. The employer even provides them with warm clothes throughout their stay!

Increase in exports

Quebec now exports almost 2 million trees, the peak was reached in 2019, just before the pandemic. This is double the figure from 1996, when the province exported just over 1 million. On the price side, they went from $ 13 (1996) per unit to almost $ 31 (2021), an increase of 55%, according to Global Trade Tracker data compiled by the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ ).

The main destinations for trees in Quebec, according to MAPAQ, are:

  • United States (New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina)
  • And Venezuela
  • Bermuda Islands
  • Bahamas
  • Aruba

In addition, due to the wildfires that have raged in the United States, demand for Quebec products will remain strong for a few years, estimates Ms. Turcotte-Côté of BL Christmas Trees.

It is difficult to sell at a high price in Quebec, finally regrets Mr. Audet, who sells his trees for $ 15 to $ 100, depending on the size. This balsam fir grower even bought Fraser fir to satisfy some customers who prefer them because “they lose less needles than balsam trees.” We can assume that the profit margin is even lower in these trees.

Where to find your tree?

You can find a tree in certain public markets in the city, as well as in certain grocery stores and supermarkets. An online zip code search tool allows you to find a retailer near you. However, it only lists the outlets of members of the Quebec Christmas Tree Growers Association. U-picking is also accessible for those who have a car. One tip: find out before you go and plan to have cash, because Interac doesn’t work very well at the edge of the forest …

Photo: Bl Christmas Trees

>> Read also: The golden rules for an ethical Christmas


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