Denmark tops for Christmas tree production

Denmark’s production of Christmas trees is expected to reach a record of 12 million firs this year of which 95% are for export, the Danish Christmas tree industry said.

“The production is at its pinnacle this year,” said Kaj Oestergaard, director of the Danish Christmas Tree Growers Association.

For the past decade, Danes have been the world’s largest exporters of Christmas trees and greenery. In 2003, worldwide sales of Danish-grown firs are expected to reach €143m.

Denmark’s Christmas tree production began after the Second World War and exports took off in the early 1990s.

The first landmark was reached in 1992, when a record eight million trees were harvested, of which 75% were exported. Last year, the production reached 11 million trees of which 10 million were sold abroad.

Production had grown so much by 1996, that prices dropped because of a market glut. The amount of land used to cultivate Christmas trees had nearly tripled, to 66,000 acres.

“When prices dropped afterward, farmers stopped planting trees and the amount of area replanted decreased,” said Oestergaard.

“This means that next year we will not get that much production,” he said.

This year, Danish Christmas tree farmers will export to Germany – Denmark’s main market – France, Britain, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark’s two Scandinavian neighbours, Sweden and Norway.

Danes chiefly produce the popular Nordmann fir, a slow-growing, symmetrical tree that does not lose its needles as easily as other Christmas trees do when they are moved inside a heated home.

A cold, snow-covered landscape depicting a Christmas tree may be ideal on greeting cards but not for growing firs.

“Firs grow better in a country like Denmark where temperature don’t stay too long under freezing point and that doesn’t get a lot of snow,” he said.

Winters with temperatures below minus 15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) hamper the grow of the trees. “And when there is a lot of snow, it’s not easy to harvest the trees,” he said.

Although the small Scandinavian country of five million is the largest exporter, it is not the largest producer of Christmas trees.

Worldwide, the United States tops the list with 36 million firs harvested in 2002 while in Europe, Germany has the lead with 22 million trees. The firs in the United States and Germany are chiefly for the domestic market, Oestergaard said.

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