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How the recession more than 10 years ago is leading to a Christmas tree shortage this year

Posted at 5:42 AM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 11:06:50-05

(WXYZ) — We're in the first full week of December, and a lot of people will be heading to tree lots to pick out their Christmas tree. You may be wondering, with all the pandemic-related supply chain issues, is there a shortage and have prices gone up?

Larry Davis, the owner of Huron Christmas Tree Farm in New Boston, said he's had to cut down some of next year's stock to serve some customers this year.

"We can't keep up to the supply," he said.

Davis said business has been up during the pandemic, but he's had to raise prices for the first time in five years to offset the rising cost of seedlings, chemicals, trucking and labor.

It all adds up to about 5-6%, he said.

After a water-logged growing season this year, many of his younger trees are stressed.

“We’ve got a lot of growth yet to go. We’ve got a good bud set. So, that means next year, that tree could be sellable," Davis said about one tree, but then he pointed to another one much smaller with some yellowing of the needles. "When you look at this one here, you've got a certain amount of water damage."

Amy Start, the Executive Director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association said, "It’s just going to take a long time to get to where we need to be."

She said the tightening of the market has to do with the recession more than a decade ago.

In 2008, I asked her if some farms planted fewer trees or did some go out of business?

"A little bit of both," Start replied. "Some went completely out of business, and some had to back off on what they were doing."

On average, it takes about 8-10 years to grow an average tree, and 10-12 years to grow a taller tree. So, a drop in production back then is being seen now.

English Gardens' six retail locations have plenty in stock, but they are experiencing a shortage in larger trees – those 7-15 feet tall.

English Gardens is charging about $5.00 more for smaller trees but up to $30-to-$40 more for 9-to-11-foot-tall trees.

English Gardens is offering a sale — all fresh Christmas trees at their stores are 40% off through Monday, December 13, 2021.

At Huron Christmas Tree Farm in New Boston, they're preparing to close early this year — Friday, Dec. 10.

“We got our normal 350 trees, and I think now one of the reasons we’re closing is because I think we’re down to 25," Davis said.

Michigan is the third-largest producer of Christmas trees in the nation. So, you'll find a tree; it just may not be exactly what you're looking for in terms of size and variety. Expect higher prices this year as well.