The harvesting of 700,000 Christmas trees for the domestic and export market is well underway around the country, with up to 100 growers in the middle of the busiest time of the year for them in the run-up to December. The Christmas tree market is worth €15m to the economy.
Over 40%, or 300,000 trees, are exported, mainly to the UK and France. The most popular varieties grown in this country are the Nordmann fir (70%) and the Noble fir (20%), which our soil is particularly suited to growing. Their ability to retain their needles makes them very popular with customers here and abroad.
Dermot Page, Chairman of the Irish Christmas Tree Growers’ Association, said the lack of suitable soil in the export markets has created an opening for quality Irish Christmas trees. “The Nordmann fir and the Noble fir thrive in the conditions in this country, unlike England and France.”
Dermot Page said the theft of trees is becoming a major issue for growers. “Harvesting depots have set up security operations to protect Christmas trees while they are stored, before they are distributed to market. Increasingly, growers are also being forced to install security on their plantations as trees are targeted by thieves even before they are harvested.”
Mr Page said some growers are examining the feasibility of introducing a marking system on their trees to trace any thefts. “Given the initial investment and the time it takes to get a return from planting, growers must take every preventable step to losing their crop.”
The annual maintenance programme encompasses a broad range of husbandry activities from weed control, crop fertilisation, tree training and harvesting. On average it takes 7 – 10 years for a Christmas tree to grow to a minimum height of 2 metres. Wicklow, Wexford and Carlow have the greatest concentration of tree farms in the country.