Christmas tree shortage: Why it's happening and what you need to know

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- Something to keep in mind as you go out to buy a Christmas tree this year: there is yet again a Christmas tree shortage.

The shortage has been going on for the past few years, but it's only getting worse and making tress rarer-- and yes, expensive.

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To understand why this is happening we visited Tommy Speer, the owner of Speer Family Farms, which sells Christmas trees in the Bay Area.

"I've already seen a lot of customers, 'Do you have trees? Do you have trees,'" Speer said. "We've never seen this many customers in the 10 years we've been open calling this early for a Christmas tree."

Speer explained that the tree shortage began six years ago in Oregon-- the world's largest exporter of Christmas trees. He said the number one reason was that in years prior there were too many trees.

"There became a glut of Christmas trees up there and the growers stopped growing because they weren't making money," Speer explained.

Instead, many growers decided to grow marijuana or hemp instead.

On top of that, the recession forced other growers to close. Two recent hot summers impacted the crop as well.

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"It literally wiped out a large amount of crops of seedlings," he said.

Trees take years to grow, so cut to 2019 and now there's not enough-- and it keeps getting worse.

"To give you an idea, my grower, my main grower that I use, they're cutting this year 50 percent less trees than last year," Speer said.

That shortage-- combined with a rising cost of labor-- has, in turn, led a high spin in prices.

Speer says the cost of a wholesale Christmas tree has doubled in the last six years.

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"Last year was the worst I had ever seen it, actually. I mean, literally people were coming from different counties to get trees at the end of the season," Speer recalled.

He said this year could be even worse.

"It could be. Hard to say," he said. "But if I had to bet my money on it, I'd probably say it will be."
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