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How civil war in the Ukraine and a late frost in Germany affects a Christmas tree grower in Wicklow

The last few weeks in November are always busiest for the nation’s Christmas tree growers, with mass harvesting beginning.

TIS THE SEASON to be busy if you’re in the business of growing Christmas trees.

The last few weeks in November are always hectic the nation’s Christmas tree growers, with mass harvesting beginning.

But in reality a Christmas tree grower’s work begins in January – and there are a huge number of factors that go into whether the following November will be a good harvest.

In total, about 600,000 Christmas trees will be harvested this year and sent onto the different selling points, at home and abroad.

“It’s a frantic period for all the growers,” Tony Johnston, chairman of the Irish Christmas Tree Growers, told TheJournal.ie.

It’s such a short window to try to shift 600,000 trees. So it’s all hands to the pump and it just doesn’t stop

In the region of 80 growers across the island of Ireland  are part of the ICTG and they have their work cut out for them, as they harvest thousands upon thousands of trees from their plantations.

It can take up to 10 years for a Christmas tree to be full grown and ready for harvest, and a growers work begins in early January, with tending to their crop and ensuring nothing goes wrong throughout the year.

It’s estimated that the industry is worth over €20 million per year to the Irish economy in terms of trees sold and the employment and labour involved.

Issues

Theft, bad weather, and trees being imported from other countries are three of the main issues that can face a Christmas tree grower. But Johnston said that the harvest this year is one of the best in his memory.

“This year we’ve been very lucky. The weather conditions have been good, the trees have grown really, really, well and are in fantastic shape,” he said.

An Garda Síochána also has Operation Hurdle, a seasonal operation targeting Christmas tree raiders, which Johnston said has been very effective.

He said that despite the good harvest, growers are still worried about trees being imported from other countries, when there is an abundance here.

To that end, the ICTG ask people to look for the Love a Real Tree label, which will show that it is Irish.

Aside from judging the growth, anticipating weather and conditions and protecting the trees, a professional tree grower has to keep in mind a huge number of factors when looking at the Christmas tree market each year.

“It’s such a juggling act. It’s a European market so we’re looking at what production forecast is,” said Johnston.

“We look at the weather forecast in Denmark and Germany in April and May to see if they’ve had frost. Because sometimes they can have a late frost that can damage the trees.

“We look are they having weather problems on the continent and how does it affect us?

“You’re looking at the financial situation in Denmark with the banks in Denmark as that had an impact last year,” he said.

“It’s a pan-European industry and you’re very interested in what’s coming out of Europe. What are the figures coming out of Eastern Europe, what are the emerging markets.

Geopolitical strife can also have a surprising effect on the market.

“There were issues with Russia a few years ago. the Danes were sending their trees across into Russia. And then with the business of Russia going into Ukraine and then Crimea,” said Johnston.

“There were trade embargoes so does trees stopped moving across and going east, so those trees were being shifted into European markets and there was excess,” he said.

So it’s geopolitical and you’re looking at what’s shipping elsewhere in the world and who that impact the christmas tree market.

“It’s absolutely fascinating seeing just the impact of what’s happening geopolitically and how that impacts right down to a small grower sitting in Wicklow and how it will affect his livelihood that year.

“And it does.

But if you understand it and know it and can predict then you can do something about it.

Not just a job for Christmas, so.

Read: Tubridy has been getting ‘Toy Show ready’ by watching Elf and dancing around his kitchen

Read: Gardaí tell people to ‘gift a lift’ this Christmas as drink driving arrests increase

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