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Get them while you can! Calgary Christmas tree vendors expect to sell out fast amid rising demand and falling supply

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Calgarians looking for the perfect Christmas tree this holiday season might find it a little more difficult with increasing demand and falling supply.

Colin Atter, the owner of Plantation Garden Centre says up until two months ago he had zero trees available to order because one of his main suppliers stopped shipping to Alberta.

It was a forgone conclusion that he wouldn’t have any trees to sell this year, but he experienced a ‘Christmas miracle’ when a new supplier was discovered.

“These trees have been hard to get, but I got a little bit lucky and with some good timing found a new supplier that was willing to work with me. We've now got more trees than we've ever had before,” he said.

“It just seems like the U.S. is taking a lot of trees out of the out of the Canadian market, they're buying up a lot of the trees because of this North American-wide shortage.”

Atter says he now has roughly 1,700 trees and his customers are becoming increasingly aware of the shortages as he’s already sold a few hundred this week alone.

Despite a huge increase in what Atter had to pay for these trees, he won’t be increasing his prices and hopes to make up any lost revenue through extra volume sold.

Other local vendors like Tricia Katelnitkoff, the owner of Cobblestone Garden Centre says her store also experienced a supply shortage for more than two months and was just recently able to finally fill its inventory.

Cobblestone Garden Centre has already sold half its Christmas tree inventory this week.

“We get a couple hundred trees in every year. Typically, it takes us until about the last week of December to sell through, but we got our trees less than a week ago and they're half gone already,” she said.

Katelnitkoff adds that demand has increase drastically over the past three to four years ever since the COVID-19 pandemic.

She pointed to a growing population of newcomers to Canada who wish to have a real tree and take part in the Canadian holiday tradition, but also the fact that there are fewer vendors and climate change concerns.

“There’s been some supply issues in regards to drought and fire and some health issues on some of the tree nurseries across the country so there's definitely been a crunch,” she said.

“Christmas trees, of course take a few years to grow and as a result, there are several different factors that play into the production of the trees themselves. Typically, these trees like a lot of light, a lot of sun and adequate freeze-thaw cycles throughout the year to control growth and to control disease. As a result we’ve been seeing a lot of trees go stateside."

CHRISTMAS TREE PRICES INCREASING FIVE TO 20 PER CENT

That being said, the Canadian Christmas Trees Association says tree prices are going up anywhere from five to 20 per cent across the board this year.

Shirley Brennan, the association’s executive director says the rising cost of transportation is what’s leading to this mark up.

“So that's where it really does impede some of the trees coming into Alberta because you don't have a lot of tree farms to get your trees locally from so you have to bring them across Canada so those prices have gone up,” she said.

Brennan adds that on top of the increase in prices, forest fires, extreme heat and droughts have affected growers across the country as well.

“The heat from the forest fires and the drought are a real concern for the younger trees, so that may mean that some of those trees are lost and I do know that there are farms that did lose some of their seedlings, and that may be where it stunted the growth," she said.

“So instead of having that trees that are 10 to 12 years, you're looking at 14 to 16 years for that tree to be mature.”

According to Statistics Canada, there were about 1,360 tree farms across the country in 2021, compared to 2,381 in 2011. It means approximately 1,000 farms have vanished over the past decade.

Brennan says Canada has lost around 8,000 hectares of Christmas tree farms as growers begin to retire or age out of the business.

“In Alberta, I can tell you that you have lost 438 acres that are used for Christmas trees, which is only 60 Christmas tree farms in the whole province,” she noted.

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