Weather, low dollar keep Christmas tree business booming
Some wholesale prices rise as much as 10% for trees headed to West and U.S.
The Christmas tree business is booming for some growers this year, all thanks to a low Canadian dollar and high demand, says the former president of the New Brunswick Christmas Tree Growers Association.
Adam Stone, who is also the owner of Hilltop Christmas Tree Farms outside Fredericton and in the Florenceville-Bristol area, exports the majority of his Christmas trees to the United-States.
"This is year is our best year when it comes to sales yet," he said. "There's a shortage of trees this year in the U.S."
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So far this year, he's sold 18,000 trees to the eastern seaboard of the United- States and 17,000 trees to Western Canada, a region that used to rely on the U.S. for most of its trees, he said.
"They couldn't get the trees out of the U.S. this year," Stone said
As a result, Stone said, his wholesale price went up 10 per cent this year for trees sent to the U.S. and Western Canada, He hasn't seen such a jump since he started growing trees almost a decade ago.
"Our sales have been aggressive and [doing] quite well," said Stone, who sells his wholesale trees for between $20 and $30.
The industry in New Brunswick is still benefiting from the effects of the 2008 recession, when U.S. tree farmers didn't plant as heavily as in previous years, he said.
"Now there's not enough trees to supply the demand."
Stone expects the trend to continue for the next two or three years.
A change in seasons
Warm summer temperatures can also affect success in the holiday season.
And this year, those dry temperatures made Martha Bell nervous about her Christmas tree business.
"We really worried about it because if the weather's really dry, we're like any other farmer," she said. "The fertilizer doesn't take, you need moisture to bring that into the ground, and I worried about the needle retention."
Bell and her husband, Scotty, own and maintain about 20,000 trees in the Florenceville-Bristol area, and as the year wore on, the weather worked for them.
We knew early on in October that it was going to be a really good year.- Martha Bell
"This year has been a textbook year," she said. "We've had enough moisture, we've had enough hot weather."
The dry weather also prevented insect infestations that the Christmas farm would normally get with damp weather, she said.
"We knew early on in October that it was going to be a really good year," Bell said.
She sells most of her Christmas trees and wreaths to the U.S.
Industry has its challenges
But it hasn't been an easy year for everyone.
Cecil Coy of Coy's Christmas Trees in Upper Gagetown spent the summer trimming and fertilizing the trees on his farm.
This summer was the driest he's seen since starting his tree-farming business in the early 1990s. And by the time it rained this fall, it was too late, he said.
Coy, who sells mostly to people in the Oromocto and Upper Gagetown areas, said the weather had a huge impact on his trees.
"Some of them have a good colour but some of them [haven't]," said Coy, who cares for about 2,000 trees.
As a result, the tree farmer will have to wait until next year to sell a lot of his Christmas trees.
That will give them time to brighten up. He said there are close to 200 trees that are too yellow to cut down this season.
"You've got the trees you've got to get rid of them whether you make it or break it," he said