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Big demand, low supply for Christmas trees

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GUYSBOROUGH – There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree. But if you don’t get one soon, you might not get one at all. The first thing on your Christmas shopping list this year should be the tree, according to the buzz on the lot at the Northeastern Christmas Tree Association (NECTA).

Norman MacIsaac, the association’s manager of marketing, told The Journal last week that they will soon stop shipping because they are getting low on trees. And, while the association ships to the United States and doesn’t sell locally – when they can’t find enough trees to ship, that indicates a shortage in supply across the entire market.

The NETCA, located on South River Lake Rd. near Goshen, procures trees for the U.S. market mainly from growers in Guysborough, Antigonish and Pictou counties. The association has 100 members and markets trees for approximately 60 of those members.

This year, MacIsaac said, there is a big demand for trees,but not much of a supply. But that, according to him, has nothing to do with the pandemic; it’s due to competition and the plight that faces most of the agricultural sector – the demographic involved in the industry. “The average age of the grower is between 65 and 70 years old; people are getting out of it.”

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And the competition, that’s coming from below the border. “There are buyers from the U.S. coming in offering more money in some cases,” said MacIsaac.

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The draw for U.S. buyers is profit, of course. MacIsaac told The Journal that “prices are going up definitely; probably about 10 per cent more than last year and last year was probably about 10 per cent more than the year before.”

The actual price per tree varies based on size and grade,but MacIsaac said, “If you’re dealing with premiums, you’ll get a pretty good dollar for them … a 7-8-foot tree of the highest grade would probably get $18 or more [wholesale].”

MacIsaac said he isn’t seeing any difference in the tree business this year as far as COVID-19 is concerned, but he does expect it will be a good year for retailers. “I think there is going to be a big demand because people are going to be stuck in their homes because they can’t travel. Retailers are going to do really well, I think.”

And he’s not the only one who’s predicting a good season. All over North America the Christmas tree market is booming.

Shirley Brennan, the executive director of the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association told Global News, “People realize ‘I’m not going away for Christmas this year, so I am going to get a real tree.’ Families want a tradition and want to embrace this holiday season because they missed so much this year because of COVID.”

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While the pandemic might be making you rethink your holiday traditions, it might make you rethink your career choices as well. If that’s the case, here’s some potential advice from MacIsaac.

“There are some young people in it, and they are going to reap the benefits of the low supply. They are doing a lot of planting and a lot of grooming. I think they are going to be set up pretty good. Any younger people that manage a Christmas tree farm properly will do well.”

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