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HUNTINGTON, N.Y. — Add Christmas trees to the list of items facing shortages and higher prices this year.
Experts said tree buyers should expect to pay between 10% and 30% more for both live trees and artificial trees this year and also have a smaller selection to choose from.
"Prices have gone up significantly," John Mohlenhoff, secretary of the hook and ladder company for the Huntington fire department, told the newspaper. "We've had to compromise on what types of trees we're getting, sizes, everything."
The Huntington fire department sold out its trees in 48 hours last year in what is normally a weeklong fundraising sale, Mohlenhoff said. This year, prices have been raised about $5, the first time that's been done in a decade. The department has had to pay higher prices to the farm in Pennsylvania that supplies the trees.
Darts Christmas Tree Farm in Southold sold out of mature trees last year for the first time in 50 years, and also sold many that weren't mature yet, leaving the farm with fewer large trees this year, owner Ed Dart said.
Several factors are at work. Farmers struggling after the economic recession in 2009 planted fewer trees for several years, and demand has been rising in the last several years, experts told Newsday. It takes eight to 10 years for a tree to reach maturity.
Shipments of artificial trees have been delayed this year due to supply chain issues including a shortage of truck drivers to make deliveries.
"Some of the major retailers say they have about 43% of their inventory right now when it should be closer to 70% at this time of the year," Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents Christmas tree retailers, told the newspaper.
Costello's Ace Hardware, which sells artificial trees at 22 locations on Long Island, has raised prices as much as 25%, category manager Andy Pergament told the newspaper. The chain normally has Christmas merchandise set up in stores by late October but is still waiting for some artificial trees being shipped from China that are supposed to arrive next week, he said.