It was toilet paper first, then yeast. The next big COVID-19 shortage? Christmas trees

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In a year marked by a shortage of everything from toilet paper to yeast, it may not be so surprising that the next big shortage is shaping up to be the one thing many Torontonians have been waiting for the most in the end. ‘a terrible year. – Christmas trees.

“By the 15th, I don’t think there will be any trees available,” said Judy Clark, director of the East End Garden Center, which received her last shipment of Christmas trees from the year.

Demand is higher than ever, Clarke said, with people “willing to pay a little more for a good quality tree” in a year of devastation.

But the combination of low supply and high demand led to an overflow of Christmas tree lots, many of which sold out early, Clarke said. “Places that have been designated to open and have trees are really being bombed.”

With COVID-19, that has been a challenge to harness, she added – this year the center has become an open-air market to welcome customers safely. It was also more difficult than usual to bring in employees, she said.

Many tree operations have already closed for the season, said Shirley Brennan, executive director of the Canadian Association of Christmas Tree Growers. Although demand is higher than usual this year, supply has also been affected, she said, not only by COVID-19, but by the last great North American crisis – the recession of 2008.

After the recession, Christmas tree growers in North America either did not plant as many trees as usual, she said, or did not make planned expansions.

And since Christmas trees take about 10 years to grow before they’re ready for your living room, we’re now seeing the results of that plunge, Brennan said.

In addition, nature has not been kind to arborists, she said. On the one hand, a few years ago there was a June frost that affected Christmas trees in Nova Scotia, and the forest fires in British Columbia have caused droughts over the years that also affected trees.

“We have a business plan for 10 years, and in those 10 years a lot can happen,” she said, adding that many sellers have had to buy from more sources than from habit to meet demand.

During that time, the demand for Christmas trees has steadily increased by 10 to 15 percent each year, Brennan said – and this year it has increased.

Jim Watson of Watson Christmas Trees said the farm, which is now closed for the season, started receiving calls about Christmas trees even before they were open.

“I would say it was busier this year than the other years,” he said, adding that the demand for trees increased with each year he was in the area.

“There’s always been a feeling that artificial trees are going to take over and bankrupt us, and yet… it’s busier every year since I’ve been there.

Brennan thinks it’s because many young people are turning to conventional trees rather than plastic trees, and families, unable to come together this year, are now buying one per household, instead of just one. for the house where they would normally congregate.

Amin Datoo, manager of the Sheridan Nurseries store in Toronto, said his store was lucky: they received all the trees they had pre-ordered in May and June and were able to purchase more to meet increased demand. .

They also received their last shipment of 400 trees on Tuesday, 250 more than they originally expected, Datoo said.

“We’re pretty well supplied now.”

Adding to the surge in demand, Datoo said, there are people who normally go south for the winter; unable to travel, many now buy a tree – even two, if they spend Christmas at the cottage.

The nursery is also seeing more young people buying smaller trees with roots to comply with condominium or table tree regulations.

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Datoo said the price of Christmas trees is increasing every year, but this year the additional staff and COVID-19 equipment could increase the cost a bit more.

Prices for Christmas trees will vary depending on the type of tree, Brennan said, where it is sold and the terms of sale. Most will be between $ 75 and $ 100, she said, and the price, like demand, has risen steadily every year with inflation and rising costs.

“If you are in the Toronto area, your prices are different than in the Ottawa or Windsor area,” she says.

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