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Celebrate Christmas with tree-farm harvests

Celebrate Christmas with tree-farm harvests

With Christmas just a few days away, we break down six Christmas-tree facts. The data come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties, which was released this month.

Small growth seen in trees for harvest -- The United States harvested 11.7 million Christmas trees in 2019. Given that it takes several years for trees to reach maturity, there are some neat data on what future harvests might have in store. Figure 1 shows the number of expected trees in future harvests. In the short run the supply of trees is expected to increase and then peak at more than 14 million in 2022 and 2023 – before reducing again. For context we previously noted Christmas trees harvested were more than 20 million in 2002 – a slow but long trend toward fewer Christmas trees harvested in the United States.

Most farm sales wholesale -- The majority of farm Christmas-tree sales are to wholesale markets, with retail accounting for only 18 percent of trees that farms sell. While a small share of trees, retail sales account for 30 percent of total farm sales.

Firs most popular trees -- While there are several Christmas tree species, there are three that account for 71 percent of all trees harvested in the United States – Fraser Fir at 35 percent is the most popular tree, followed by Douglas Fir at 19 percent and Noble Fir at 17 percent.

New trees gaining popularity -- While the trend has been toward fewer Christmas trees harvested, two species have grown in popularity. Balsam Fir with an increase of 16 percent and Scotch Pines with an increase of 17 percent are the only two species that have increased the number of trees harvested.

Cypress most expensive tree -- Figure 3 shows the average farm-retail price for Christmas trees by species. Across all trees the average farm-retail price in 2019 was $51 per tree. The Leyland Cypress was the most expensive at $62, while the budget-friendly Scotch Pine came in at $41.

Tree-flation hits prices -- The 2019 price data seemed like a significant change from our previous update. Table 1 looks at the average prices for select species from the 2019 data, compared to 2014. Compared to 2014, the average farm retail price has increased by almost $15 per tree. That comes to a 2.1 percent average annual rate of change. Price changes have been more aggressive for Balsam Fir with a 5.4 percent increase annually and Fraser Fir with a 4.7 percent increase annual. Douglas Fir prices have been more modest with an average rate increase of 1.7 percent annually. For context the annual inflation rate throughout the U.S. economy has not exceeded 2.5 percent in recent memory.

Wishing you and yours the happiest holiday season!

David Widmar is an agricultural economist with Agricultural Economic Insights.

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