Lehigh Valley

Christmas tree shortage hits local area supplier

VIDEO: Christmas tree shortage this...

Christmas tree season is upon us, and reportedly there are nationwide shortages.

"It's tight this year. I'm not gonna say we're short yet, but it's tough," said Denny Beck, General Manager of BeckTree Farms near Hamburg. 

BeckTree is like many other family farms in the area, which invite paying customers to cut down Christmas trees and take them home.  

Farms like these are basically self-sufficient, and many in the area told WFMZ that they don't yet face severe shortages and expect to have enough for the season.  

But, it's a whole different story for wholesalers.

"The shortage is real," said Bryan MacDonald, a partner at Pinecrest Tree Farms in New Ringgold.

His operation is totally different; they cut trees, bail them, and load them onto trucks. Then they ship them to nurseries and tree lots across the east coast. 

Standing in front of a Fraser Fir -- his most popular tree at the moment -- MacDonald matter-of-factly laid out the intensity of his business.

"A tree like this will get cut, bailed, loaded on an 18-wheeler 48-foot flatbed, end up anywhere from Maine to Atlanta, Georgia," he said.    

Demand is so high that MacDonald has essentially stopped taking new orders, only filling requests from existing customers. 

Reasons for the shortage are complicated, but one aspect starts around 2000 when a lot of people started tree farms.

"Things were going great, the economy was booming, and it looked easy," he explained.

About eight to 10 years later, once the trees were mature, the market was flooded with product…right as the financial crisis hit.

"What that did was it created a huge surplus," said MacDonald. 

Which made prices drop, at the same time as sales.

When the new growers weren't making as much money as they'd hoped, many of them bailed out.

"The trees that should've been replanted in say 2010 are the trees that would be coming to the market now," he said. 

And farms like Pinecrest were left to pick up the slack.

So how long will this shortage last?

"I'd say probably another three to five years," said MacDonald. "It's a science, it's a business, it's a battle."

A Christmas lesson in supply and demand. 


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