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Supply chain problems could impact the availability and price of Christmas trees this year

Supply chain issues could cause Christmas tree price changes
Posted at 3:52 PM, Nov 19, 2021

It takes a lot of work to grow a Christmas tree.

“We are growing a crop that takes seven to 10 years until you can harvest it,” said Beth Bossio at Quarter Pine Tree Farm in Pennsylvania. “Every year, it grows about a foot, so that’s why it does take a long time.”

Quarter Pine Tree Farm is preparing for the busiest part of the year.

“We are a choose and cut tree farm,” Bossio said.

This time of year is spent tagging, cutting and hanging trees. It's not an inexpensive process.

“Prices are going up across the board with everything. We sold our trees two years ago for $60 and we raised them $5 last year, $5 this year so we’re selling our trees for $70 and I think that is comparable to what we’re seeing across the nation,” Bossio said.

“It creates a lot of difficulty in terms of managing the supply chain just because the lead times are long, lots of things can go wrong,” said Prakash Mirchandani, director of the Center for Supply Chain Management at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mirchandani said Christmas trees are a unique product with a short life cycle and a short period of demand. However, they also take a long time to grow, or for artificial trees, to create.

“The supply chains for both of these types of trees has gotten affected,” he said.

The main problem has to do with transportation, Mirchandani added.

“As far as artificial trees are concerned, almost all are imported," Mirchandani said. "Eighty percent come from China.”

“Big retailers haven't been able to bring all their trees in and get them through the ports,” said Mac Harman, CEO of Balsam Hill.

Balsam Hill is an artificial Christmas tree and decoration retailer. Harman is also one of the founders of the American Christmas Tree Association, a nonprofit organization.

He said they’ve had to raise their prices at Balsam Hill around 22 percent on average to help offset transportation costs.

“If you're buying a tree that's been trucked to you or if you're buying an artificial tree there's no question that the prices are going to go up,” he said.

And for states that grow a lot of real trees, getting them to other parts of the U.S. could also be impacted.

“The availability of transportation is certainly going to affect sending the trees from Pennsylvania to other locations,” Mirchandani said.

But farmers across the country are adding to their supply for future years. It’s something Quarter Pine Tree Farm sees firsthand.

Beth Bossio’s stepfather Jim Rockis opened Quarter Pine Tree Farm in the 1990s, but it’s more than just a tree farm. They operate a Christmas tree seed orchard too -- and they are one of a few to do it.

“There’s probably five of us in the country that do it in an industrial way -- that do Christmas trees,” Rockis said. The seedlings that grow from these seeds are distributed to over 300 farms in the Northeast -- and Bossio sees them ramping up their supply.

“In the last four years farmers are planting more and more trees,” she said. “It used to be that we would start taking orders and I’d still be taking orders in February of the following year. We’re already sold out and that's because farmers are ramping up their numbers.”

While Christmas trees may have a higher price tag this season, industry experts say there will be a tree available for people to put gifts under.

“You just need to shop early,” Bossio said. “Yes supply chain issues across the board with a lot of things, but we’re never going to run out of trees. It’s just you might not find the size tree you're looking for. It may be a 7 foot instead of an 8 foot, and that tree is still going to provide the scent and the experience you want no matter what.”