Christmas tree shortage expected in wake of B.C. flooding



With Christmas fast approaching, anyone planning to put up a real Christmas tree this year might want to move quickly.

Flooding in the Fraser Valley is keeping thousands of Christmas trees from being delivered to retailers.

“This is one of the worst years so far,” said Arthur Loewen, who’s been growing Christmas trees in the Fraser Valley since 1970.

Loewen’s Pine Meadows Christmas Tree Farm in Chilliwack flooded last week, as heavy rain from an atmospheric river battered B.C.’s South Coast. During the worst of the flooding, Loewen says, 75 per cent of his farm – or 15,000 Christmas trees – stood in 30 centimetres of water.

However, he says water is not the main concern. The bigger threat to his business has been the multiple highway closures, keeping thousands of his trees from going out to B.C. retailers in Metro Vancouver and the Interior.

“The last couple of days, we’ve been cutting and baling trees. Right now, we have a few thousand just sitting there, waiting to be shipped,” said Loewen.

Exports aren’t Loewen’s only problem. He says B.C. alone does not grow enough Christmas trees to meet demand, so roughly 200,000 trees are imported from other provinces and the United States each winter.

He has incoming shipments stalled in Manitoba and Quebec, with suppliers there not attempting to deliver the trees until they are certain B.C. highways shuttered by flooding and landslides are operational.

In Vancouver, Aunt Leah’s Place is preparing to open its three Christmas tree lots on Nov. 25. Proceeds from the sale of an estimated 6,000 trees will go towards support programs for youth in foster care. The non-profit sourced most of its inventory from Richmond, but it did order 1,000 trees from Cranbrook. Operators are unclear if and when those trees will make it to the Lower Mainland.

“That’s $50,000 in revenue,” said Craig Lenske, social enterprise manager with Aunt Leah’s.

“Given this is our largest fundraiser of the year, that’s money that doesn’t go to support our mission.”

Christmas tree growers say the extremely high temperatures during the June heat dome singed and stunted the growth of many Christmas trees, eliminating a portion of this year’s supply. Farmers say that problem, now coupled with a precarious supply chain, means a Christmas tree shortage is inevitable.

“My message would be to come to one our lots, but come early,” said Lenske. “We do have a lot of trees, but I expect they’ll be gone quickly.”

Loewen says the floodwater has receded enough for the public to return to his property and pick out a tree. During a difficult year, he hopes the community will support local growers and pick up trees at farms whenever it’s safe to do so.

“People will be able to get trees. It might be a little more of a challenge for them to do so, but it will happen,” he said.​

Source: CTV News