SALT LAKE CITY – Utah families looking for a fresh-cut Christmas tree might come up short because fewer conifers are available in the Pacific Northwest this year.
The shortage involves the Great Recession, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.
Joe Shadle, owner of J&T Trees in Utah, said it takes up to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree for the market. He said demand for live trees was down during the recession, so Christmas tree farmers opted to grow fewer and replace them with profitable crops.
Retailers at the height of the recession were paying just $12 for trees that cost farmers $16 to produce. This year, retailers are paying as much as $40 for farmers’ best trees.
The low supply has created bidding wars among retailers, leaving some smaller operations like that of the Vario family’s out to dry.
“We can’t afford to pay that price – that’s what we charged our customers,” Julie Vario said. “We’re just a little lot. We’re not Home Depot where you have a multitude of customers.”
Vario and her husband, Pat, have a family-run Christmas tree lot in Tooele County. They typically spend this week preparing fresh-cut conifers from Oregon, but for the first time in 65 years, they’re treeless.
“Every year in June we talk to the vendor and go up to Oregon to look at the trees and decide what to take,” Julie Vario said. “This year when we said we would be up, he sent a text back and said, ‘We don’t have enough trees for you.’ ”
Large-volume retailers are better able to compete for limited stock. Shadle, who plans to move about 7,000 Christmas trees in the coming weeks, said he purchased trees from 16 different farmers.
Shadle said the best-quality trees will run as much as $80 each this year.
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