Statistics Canada reports that in 2011, 2,381 Canadian farms grew 1,738,212 Christmas trees valued at $51.3 million. Of that, $28.2 million came from exports to the United States, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, France, Jamaica, Netherlands, Antilles, Panama, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. And most of that -- $25.8 million worth, or nearly 1.6 million trees -- were exported to the United States.
Shirley Brennan is the executive director of the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of Ontario and a director with the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association. She gives the weather and big box stores selling at greatly reduced prices as the greatest challenges facing Christmas tree growers in Canada in 2012.
To address the dry growing conditions, Brennan says the Ontario association reminded its members there are two opportunities to plant trees -– in the spring and in the fall.
"This fall was wet so growers who planted in the fall were encouraged," Brennan says.
The impact of the dry season won’t be felt right away.
"Because we know we lose trees, we’ll only feel the impact if we have two or three years of dryness," Brennan says.
The bigger concern is the price of trees at big box stores, where it can be hard to even find out where the trees were grown. Brennan says the Canadian association would like to see tags on trees identifying them as Canadian at the very least, though identifying what province they come from would be better.
The strong Canadian dollar right now is also having an impact.
"You can get a cheaper tree in the States," Brennan says. "I expect you will see imports to Canada will be higher. Export numbers are starting to go down."
She adds that overall, growers are happy this year, with some Ontario wholesalers reporting little or no change to their export numbers.
For 2013, the industry plans to focus on levelling the playing field as well as year-round promotion of live Christmas trees. That includes continuing with the real verses artificial comparison and promoting National Christmas Tree Day, which the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of Ontario and Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association declared as Dec. 8 this year.
"This is a multi-million dollar industry," Brennan says, adding it's not just the Christmas tree farming but also the transportation and other side businesses created by the industry.
"We need to get promotion out there about Christmas tree farming as an industry, not just in December, but all year."