Days after reports of shortages of Thanksgiving turkeys proved premature, the American Christmas Tree Association was moved to promise Americans that “Christmas will not be cancelled”, amid reports of looming problems.
The statement from ACTA, which represents the artificial tree industry, came amid concern that supplies of both plastic trees and live Noble, Frazer and Balsam firs will be subject to supply chain issues and the effects of the climate crisis.
ACTA said shipping costs for plastic trees could quadruple compared to 2020, because of supply chain problems. Chinese-made artificial trees on ships unable to unload at US west coast ports have been re-routed through the Panama Canal to the east coast, doubling delivery times.
Supplies of natural trees have been hit by problems including rising labour and transportation costs and extreme heat and wildfires that scorched north-western farms this summer.
Last year, 94m US households erected a Christmas tree. Of those trees, 85% were artificial and 15% were live. Artificial trees can cost as much as 80% more, which may also place more pressure on live growers.
The Pacific north-west is the largest US regional producer of live trees, producing 5m annually and accounting for nearly 25% of the US supply. Hundley said the region’s stock was down 10%, or roughly 500,000 trees, after a year of harsh weather.
Cubby Steinhart, a grower who produces 1.5m trees annually at farms in Oregon and South Carolina, told the Post this year saw the loss of 20% of his Noble firs to fire, freight charges going up by a quarter, and pay to seasonal farmworkers rising to $16 an hour from $13.
Demand in 2020 was “nuts” because of the coronavirus pandemic, Steinhart said, adding: “People were tired of being at home, so live tree nurseries were unbelievable.”