Yes Virginia, there is a shortage of Christmas trees in B.C. this year.
Invasive insects, lack of seedlings and the failing loonie are just a few reasons local tree growers are having to stretch their reach outside the province.
Ripples in the system are catching up to tree growers, says Tim Loewen from Pine Meadows Tree Farms.
Loewen is a second generation grower on the family-owned and operated nursery and tree farm. Located in Chilliwack, the farm is the usual supplier of homegrown trees for the Trail Kiwanis Christmas tree sale – but not this year.
Instead the premium Balsam and Fraser firs are coming from Eastern Canada.
“Perhaps the biggest factor…is the restriction placed on us as growers in B.C. is where we can purchase our seedlings,” he says.
Loewen was referring to a 1980’s agreement that in efforts to protect provincial forests against the Balsam Woolly Adelgid (BWA), B.C. tree growers have to source true firs within the province.
BWAs are small wingless insect from Europe, that infests and kill firs, especially Balsam fir and Fraser fir.
“I agree it is a good idea to protect our forests, however, this restriction was perhaps not implemented with all factors considered,” he said.
“There have been various changes and closings of seedling nurseries in our province and this has greatly disrupted the availability of seedlings, especially to the Christmas tree market,” Loewen added.
“We are a very small percentage compared to reforestation programs therefore they get the trees first.”
Neighbours to the south are also experiencing a tree shortfall, which affects the seasonal Canadian business.
“We have never had enough trees to supply our own market, but it didn’t matter because they came from our other local areas that happen to be in the USA, ” he continued.
With West Coast American trees running in short supply, and the weakened Canadian dollar, the cost to import trees is too high for most customers, says Loewen.
Drought is another impact that down the road, could affect growing trees and limit Christmas tannebaums.
“Most of the damage we suffered (this summer) was on small trees that were just planted this spring,” said Loewen.
“That may surface in four to five years in another shortage locally.”
But all is not lost for Trail Kiwanis annual Christmas tree fundraiser because Loewen and the club’s compromise works for everyone, including people who still like to decorate the real deal.
“The past number of years they (Kiwanis) have bought their trees from our farm directly,” Loewen explained. “This year they still purchased the trees from our farm but we sourced from Quebec,” he added.
“They were brought from Quebec because there was a great desire to maintain Canadian product in that market. We respect that we found a solution that worked.”