You’ll likely find fewer Christmas trees to chose from this holiday.
Oregon State University Christmas tree specialist Chal Landgren said that is because the number of growers has dwindled to an estimated 400 statewide.
“In 2018-19 the Christmas trees were over produced, there were too many for the market causing many growers to leave the market because the business competition was too great,” he said. “We’ll see about 4.2 million trees produced this season, which is about the same as last year, but lower than six years ago. The value of those trees is approximately $90 million annually.”
Landgren said he expects the trend of exiting growers to shift in the next few years.
“Because off the shortage, we’re now seeing people making money in the industry, and my guess is that there will be more producers as more people start getting back into the business,” he said.
Oregon growers lost trees and valuable seedlings and consumers were forced to pay higher prices in 2017-18 due to continued hot weather adversely impact the Christmas tree crop. Lindgren said most of the Christmas trees grown in Oregon are done so without irrigation.
“There are no irrigation systems established and so the growers are very dependent upon timely rainfall," he said. "This year was forgiving with good rainfall when it was needed,” he said.
Landgren classifies the Christmas tree business as a boom or bust industry.
“When times are good, more people start to grow the trees, and when times are tough we lose glowers,” he said. “Right now, people that grow trees are pretty happy because it is a sellers market.”
Landgren could not speculate on what prices you might pay for the Christmas trees this season.
“Shop around for the best deal, just like we do with everything else." he said.
It takes between six to 10 years to produce Christmas trees for market. Most of the Christmas trees are grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the surrounding foothills. The majority of the trees are shipped to California, other states and to foreign countries.
OSU is participating in research to produce new varieties of Christmas trees, such as Nordmann and Turkish firs, which are now on the market and Trojan fir, a species which won’t be available for about eight years.
“Those species are grown in Turkey and the Republic of Georgia and they can survive hot dry limits and have fewer diseases,” Landgren said. “I think people will like them because they tend to not drop needles and they least longer.”
Landgren said prices for the new Christmas tree species would be comparable to the price of Noble firs.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the latest figures available show that In 2015, Oregon Christmas tree growers cut and sold 4.7 million trees, down 26 percent from 2010. The gross sales for 2015 totaled $84.5 million, and the average price per tree was $17.90.
There were 41,223 acres growing Christmas trees, down 28 percent from 2010, with nine counties making up the majority of the acres. The two largest counties growing trees were Clackamas County with 11,512 acres growing trees and Marion County with 10,571 acres.
Noble fir was the industry leader in percentage of trees sold, accounting for 54 percentof all trees sold in 2015. Douglas fir accounted for 32 percent of all trees sold; Grand fir, Nordmann/Turkish fir and other species accounting for the remaining 14 percent. Noble fir was also the leader in highest average price, selling for $20.98 per tree.In 2015, 3.7 million trees were planted. Producers intended to plant 4.2 million trees in 2016.