Decorating a pine or fir tree with lights and other ornaments during the Christmas season is a tradition that originated in northern Europe hundreds of years ago. Today, Christmas trees have become an iconic seasonal tradition all over the world. Given that pine and fir trees only grow in certain parts of the world, away from the tropics, Christmas trees can be hard to acquire in warm regions of the globe. Therefore, many people who desire to decorate their house do so with an artificial Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the natural pine and fir tree market for the Christmas season represents an industry worth more than US$500 million in the United States alone and even more throughout the world. This article explores the status of Christmas tree markets.
Christmas Pine and Fir Tree Markets Worldwide
While more than three-quarters of all artificial Christmas trees are produced in China, most of the world’s natural pine and fir tree farms are located in the northern hemisphere. The largest suppliers of pine and fir trees in the world include the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany as well as Australia, which is located in the southern hemisphere. Annual sales in the US total approximately 30 million natural Christmas trees, but there are around 350 million Christmas trees being cultivated yearly throughout the country. This is because it takes between 4 and 15 years for a pine or fir tree to be ready for sale in the commercial Christmas tree market. In fact, the average height for a Christmas tree is between six and seven feet tall.
In the US, there are approximately 15.000 farms dedicated to growing Christmas trees occupying a total of 350.000 acres of land. These farms are mainly located in the states with the largest natural pine and fir tree production, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington. For example, during 2012, Oregon harvested some 6.4 million Christmas trees, North Carolina some 4.3 million, and Michigan another 1.7 million Christmas trees. Within the domestic tree production, the most common Christmas varieties are Balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and White pine.
One of the key benefits of cultivating pine and fir trees for Christmas markets is the financial yields. Firstly, the harvesting of Christmas trees does not require a large amount of maintenance or fertilizing substances. In fact, pine and fir trees can grow on soil that is not particularly rich in nutrients and would not be productive for other crops. The most expensive part of the Christmas tree supply chain is transportation, from the location where the tree is cut to the customer’s residence. In North America, the average production cost for a pine and fir tree farmer is between US$5 and US$10 per tree, while the average cost to the customer is between US$25 and US$60. In terms of trade, the states of Oregon and Washington do export part of their Christmas tree production towards markets in Asia Pacific, such as China, Japan, and the Philippines.