Tight supply of Christmas trees could mean higher prices

A Christmas tree shortage at various farms in some of the top tree-producing states like Oregon and Michigan could mean higher prices this holiday season.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

A tight supply of Christmas trees in some parts of the country could mean parting with some extra green to get in the holiday spirit this year.

Farmers in major tree-growing states like Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina and Missouri have cited hot weather, the 2008 recession and too much rain as factors in fewer trees being produced this year.

The smaller supply could mean higher prices for trees in several areas of the country.

However, while the national supply of trees is tight, everyone who wants one should be able to get one, one expert said.

"There is not a single community in the country that ever ran out of Christmas trees,'' Tim O'Connor, the executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, told TODAY.

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"There may be certain locations that ran out of trees because of various reasons, but not too far away there will still be another place to get a tree."

There were 32.8 million trees sold last year, which was 5 million more than in 2017, and the average price nationally only went up about $3 per tree, according to O'Connor.

Various factors have contributed to the tight supply nationally as well as dramatic shortages at individual locations.

The higher amount of rain in Missouri this year caused scotch pine trees at one farm to be infected by a fungus and contributed to the smaller supply, according to NBC affiliate KYTV.

In Michigan, the popular Fraser fir trees have not been as abundant because the 2008 recession caused less to be planted, according to MLive. It can take from seven to 10 years for various types of trees to grow to the normal height of a Christmas tree, according to O'Connor.

Some longtime growers in Oregon have gone out of business due to a lack of trees, thanks to a shortage of seedlings a decade ago and the hot summers of 2017 and 2018 that killed off thousands of trees, according to NBC affiliate KGW. The cost increase could be $20 or more per tree, growers told KGW.

There were too many trees planted starting in about 1999, which glutted the market, and then the recession hit as the industry was already struggling, O'Connor said.

"When the economy was terrible, growers said either, 'I can't do it, or won't plant as many trees as I would have in the past,''' O'Connor said. "So now we're 10 years later and there's a smaller crop of trees to harvest."

"It's going to be another two to three years before you see an uptick in supply, but everybody who wants a real tree this year will be able to find one."