If you haven't been Christmas tree hunting this holiday season yet, don't be surprised to discover that a premium holiday tree this year is going to cost more than it did last year— perhaps even more than it has ever cost.
Is there a tree shortage this year? Not exactly, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. While it is true that widespread wildfires across the U.S. over the last couple of years, especially this year, destroyed tree farms in many states, the real shortage comes from the slow economy back in 2007-2008.
According to National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Doug Hundley, the stifled economy late in the first decade caused a downturn in Christmas tree sales during the worst years of the recession, and that prevented many tree industry growers from planting seedlings for a couple of years.
In the Christmas tree business, growers cut down mature trees to meet the demand of holiday season. But with fewer sales in those lean years, producers didn't cut down their usual number of trees, and that left many with fewer acres to plant those all-important seedlings.
TOO FEW TREES OF RIGHT SIZE
The problem is just now emerging because it takes about a decade for seedlings to reach to 7 to 10 feet size, the preferred height by most consumers, meaning this year, and probably for the next year or so, there are fewer trees of the perfect size to meet the demand.
That doesn't mean you won't be able to find a tree this year. What it does mean is that since fewer trees in the popular size range are available, expect a shortage of those trees, and that means higher prices. Add to that the effect wildfires have had on National Forest lands.
While the U.S. Forest Service generally issues limited permits for consumers to cut down trees within a particular size range for those who prefer to cut their tree in the wild, fewer permits are being issued now because of fewer trees, thanks to the fires. That means many of those families that like to hunt for trees in the wild must now resort to purchasing a tree at their local supermarkets, box stores or nurseries.
Because of the shortage, consumers may find their first choice variety of tree could be limited as well.
"We believe everyone who wants to have a real tree will find one," said Hundley. "They may not have the size they want or they might have to buy a different kind (because) we have a tight market."
If you happen to live in Texas, or any other state that was not hit as hard by the recession of the first decade, you may not feel the tree squeeze as badly as most of the nation.
In Texas, another reason the tree shortage will be felt less than in most places, is a growing Christmas tree industry.
While it may come as a surprise to many, Texas actually has a number of Christmas tree farms. Some of them actually offer cut-your-own-tree programs for families who enjoy getting outside for the holidays and hunting for their perfect tree.
According to the texaschristmasstrees.com web site, Texas has at least 65 Christmas tree farms located statewide, most of them reasonably close to the state's larger, most populated cities.
Because there seems to be a growing number of tree farms in the state over the last couple of decades, most of the farms were not in heavily-damaged wildfire areas, and most importantly, because the economy has remained largely strong in Texas compared to the nation-at-large, seedling plantings and tree farm expansion made certain that ample numbers of trees are available this year, at least so far.
But a check around the state with many tree farms indicates operators are advising consumers not to wait too long to get that family tree, because while there were are plenty of trees at the beginning of the season) around Thanksgiving week), the national shortage of trees may mean more and more Texans are turning to local tree farms to get their tree this year.
While that's good news for the Texas Christmas tree industry, it may also mean that tree availability may decline rapidly now that we have reached the peak of tree buying season. So visit this web site (http://http://www.texaschristmastrees.com/findafarm.html) to find a tree farm near your location and inquire about availability before all the good trees are gone.