Christmas tree shortage added to growing list of supply chain concerns

·2-min read
HONG KONG, CHINA - JANUARY 8: Discarded Christmas trees are collected for recycling after Christmas, on January 8, 2021 in Hong Kong, China. (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
Christmas trees could be another casualty of the UK's supply chain crisis. Photo: Billy HC Kwok/Getty

Christmas trees have been added to the growing list of items that may not be available this Christmas, as UK supply chain woes set in for the long-haul. 

With less than 100 days to go until the festive season, suppliers are warning import regulations, the labour market, and lack of lorries could have a knock-on effect for the nation's festive staple. 

Growers have warned that costs of raw materials have increased, with labour coming in at 10% higher, fertiliser for the trees up 100%, pallets to transport the trees up 50%, labels and netting both up 15%, and transport costing between 20% and 60% more. 

According to The British Christmas Tree Growers Association between 8 and 10 million real Christmas trees are sold in the UK each year, and it is estimated that the UK usually imports between 1 million and 3 million of those annually from countries elsewhere in Europe.

“Our main grower supplies the market with 100,000 Christmas trees each year and employs between 50 and 70 workers during the peak of the season," said Mark Rofe, owner of ChristmasTrees.co.uk.

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"In previous years they were reliant on foresters, mostly from Eastern Europe who would come over for the harvest and then would return to their home country afterwards, but since the Brexit transition they just aren’t able to come over to work now.

"They have found it a real challenge to cover their workforce with local labour.”

New post-Brexit trade regulations have also become a factor. 

"We’ve spoken to our UK growers and they are all facing the same challenges," said Rofe. 

"They are seeing an increase in demand for their product, especially from clients who would usually import their trees from Europe, but are keen to avoid any red-tape that could increase costs or cause delays for what is of course a highly seasonal and time sensitive business.”

Read more: Shipping industry logjam could hold up Christmas orders

It’s going to be more challenging to get hold of a real Christmas tree this festive season, however if you are able to get one, you can expect to be paying more than you would have in previous years. Wholesale prices have increased between 5% and 10% this year, said Rofe. 

With Christmas trees taking an average of 10 years to grow, it’s not a case of simply just cutting more trees, especially when you don’t have the labour to harvest them, or the haulage to transport them across the country.

Watch: HGV driving tests to be relaxed to help lorry driver shortages ahead of Christmas

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