- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Whether it’s a towering noble fir, a medium-sized Colorado blue spruce or even a fake plastic evergreen, expect to pay more for your Christmas tree this season.

As they have with other goods, inflation and supply chain shortages are jacking up tree prices, according to the American Christmas Tree Association. And the group’s executive director, Jami Warner, has a word of advice for shoppers: “Get out there and buy one today.”

Prices are up 10% to 20% for live trees and 10% to 30% for artificial ones over last year, according to the association, which represents U.S. Christmas tree producers and retailers.

Ms. Warner said many of the best trees disappeared over Thanksgiving weekend, the industry’s peak time of the year for sales.

She says there “will be trees for everyone,” but adds they “might be a little harder to find” this season.

Wildfires and extreme weather eradicated large trees in California and Oregon last summer, with some West Coast tree farms reporting losses of 90% of their crop, Ms. Warner said, noting a cause of the live Christmas tree shortage.

SEE ALSO: Supply chain problems persist despite Biden’s efforts to alleviate congestion

Christine McDaniel, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center free-market think tank, also pointed to the Great Recession of 2008, when “a lot of tree growers decreased production or went out of business.”

“Tree growers say it takes about five to 10 years for a tree to mature into a commercially viable Christmas tree,” said Ms. McDaniel, a former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

According to the American Christmas Tree Association, of the 94 million U.S. households that displayed a tree in 2020, 15% exhibited live trees and 85% showed off artificial ones.

Ms. Warner said supplies of artificial trees have tightened due to a nationwide shortage of truck drivers and inflated shipping container costs.

About 98.3% of U.S. imports of artificial Christmas trees are from China right now, compared to 97.6% at this time last year, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission’s DataWeb site, which provides U.S. trade and tariff statistics.

“No duties are being collected on these imported Christmas trees, though,” Ms. McDaniel noted, adding that U.S. reliance on Chinese imports for fake trees merely reflects the broader transportation and shipping issues that “are plaguing everything across the economy.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says 13.9 million live trees will be cut and sold this year, an increase of 400,000 over last year.

Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow and economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the increased demand for Christmas trees this year reflects the broader reality that U.S. consumers have increasingly spent their money on goods rather than on travel or eating out.

“People haven’t been able to travel or go out to restaurants, but they’ve been given a boatload of money by the government in stimulus checks and they’ve been feeling pretty good about spending it,” Mr. Lachman said.

Ryan Young, a senior fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the federal government’s Christmas Tree Promotion Board could be preventing the industry from adjusting to the higher demand due to the regulations and assessment tax it levies on growers.

“Growers who make more than 500 [Christmas] trees annually are subject to detailed record keeping and reporting requirements. This gives growers an incentive to stay small, which keeps prices up and supplies scarce,” Mr. Young said.

For those still seeking live Christmas trees, Ms. McDaniel recommends pursuing the “Choose, Cut and Carry” signs on farms that allow consumers to cut down trees themselves rather than wait for professional transportation.

“So, if you are willing to drive to a tree farm and do the work yourself, you will probably find what you need,” she said. “But I wouldn’t delay.”

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide