Christmas trees in short supply this season. Experts blame drought and Great Recession

Dannie Kelly picks up a Christmas tree off the ground at his tree lot in Roxbury.

Dannie Kelly picks up a Christmas tree off the ground at his tree lot in Roxbury. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

If you’re just starting your Christmas decorating, you may have a harder time finding the perfect tree for your living room this year.

Many places in Greater Boston have already sold out or have sparser supplies than usual. And even when you can find a tree, expect to pay more.

Christmas tree seller Dannie Kelly in Roxbury said he ordered 500 to 600 trees, but could only get 400.

“I’m going to be in trouble,” he said, “because that’s all they could give me.”

Experts say the Christmas tree shortage has its roots in the Great Recession more than a decade ago, when money was tight and many consumers trimmed back on holiday decorations, including trees. Growers in turn cut back on planting new ones.

But now that the fully mature trees are ready to be harvested, there aren’t enough to go around.

“Christmas trees nationwide have been in a tight supply since 2016,” said Jill Sidebottom of the National Christmas Tree Association.

The shortage grew even worse this year, in part because of a drought in the Northeast. That’s hitting tree sellers across the country, including in Volante Farms in Needham, Mass.

Owner Al Volante says he can no longer find enough trees for all his customers. Last year, he even ran out a couple days before Christmas — and couldn’t restock.

“I was shocked because normally if we run short, we can go find trees,” Volante said. “Somebody’s always stuck with them.”

But not last year.

“There wasn’t a tree to be found in New England,” he recalled.

And the shortage may be worse this year. At least 20 tree farms in Massachusetts have already sold out this year and shut down for the season, said David Morin, who owns the Arrowhead Acres tree farm in Uxbridge and is a spokesman for the Mass. Christmas Tree Association.

“There wasn’t a tree to be found in New England.”

AL VOLANTE

He said the drought has been particularly devastating for some farms, damaging trees that would have been ready to harvest and preventing some from opening altogether. “It’ll probably take them a year to get back to normal,” he said.

Many merchants, like Volante, rely on outside suppliers from places like Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. But those trees are in short supply as well. And expect to pay more, both because of the supply shortage and broader inflation that has driven up costs of growers and merchants alike.

Unfortunately, sellers say the great Christmas tree shortage is likely to last a few more seasons.

And Volante has one key piece of advice if you are still looking for a tree: Don’t wait until Christmas Eve.

“It might be tough to find a tree,” by then, he said. “Normally we would always have trees right to the bitter end.”

But not this year.

This story was originally published by WBUR, a partner of the New England News Collaborative.

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