Christmas tree shortage? Not immediately evident at Bakersfield tree lots

Local News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Just like everything else in this pandemic year, Christmas tree prices are up – 30 percent in some parts of the country. 

What’s it like here in Bakersfield?

To the list of complications to our lives caused by the ongoing pandemic, add this: a shortage of Christmas trees. Covid-19 has messed with our jobs and our social lives. Does it have to mess with Christmas too?

The short answer is yes. Supply chain issues associated with Covid-19 restrictions have not eased for the holidays.  The international distribution logjam, magnified by extreme weather, has reduced the supply of trees nationwide – meaning American shoppers will have fewer choices and pay more.

But has it hurt business in Bakersfield? Not outwardly so. Bakersfield has eight Christmas tree lots –licensed or with licenses pending from the city – and no shortages are evident. As for cost – well, how do you put a price tag on the scent of tradition?  

“I haven’t had a Christmas tree in a while,” said Bakersfield tree-buyer Erica Reyes, “so I really like the fresh smell of pine in the house. It really makes it seem like Christmas.”

Record-breaking heat and wildfires this past summer devastated Christmas tree farms in Oregon and Washington, where many of the nation’s trees are grown. Pacific Northwest tree farmers were predicting shortages as early as August.

 Before you conclude that the logical move is to go with an artificial tree this year, you should be aware that prices for those too are up  – driven by some of the same factors that are affecting fresh cut trees.

“Yeah, but it’s a one-time purchase,” said Target shopper Susie Jimenez, who had just loaded a $200 artificial tree in her cart. “You know, I can use it throughout the years.”

Carol Olson doesn’t want to hear that. Forever fir is her motto. Her son Michael Olson has been selling Oregon-cut trees in Bakersfield at Frosty’s Forest for 12 years.

“Getting the trees trucked down can be difficult,” she said, “but we’re really doing pretty well. We’ve got supplies and we’re making the best of it.”

And, she said, Frosty’s hasn’t had to pass along price increases anywhere near 30 percent. But you’ll still drop a couple of c-notes for that perfect tree.

Add one more factor to this bah humbug equation – competition. This weekend is expected to be the busiest of the season for Christmas tree lots. If they didn’t get trees the weekend after Thanksgiving, Americans who plan on getting a fresh cut tree are likely to come out this Saturday and Sunday.

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