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Christmas trees: The rising costs of growing the real deal

Christmas tree business owners in Northern Ireland say they have seen a rise in the number of real trees being bought in 2023 - after a difficult 2022 with a cost-of-living crisis.

But they are still facing rising costs.

This means some sellers are having to put their prices up, to cover the costs of production.

"We have seen big increases in costs and the price of labour," Rory Young, chairman of the British Tree Growers Association, told BBC News NI.

Patrick Finnegan, director of Finnegan Trees in Clogher, County Tyrone, has been in business for about 20 years.

Over the past two to three years, he has had to increase the price of the trees he sells by about 20 to 30%, due to the cost of production.

But he said sales had remained steady this festive season.

"The price of our trees depends on the size," he said.

"Most customers go for one around £45 to £50."

Brian Donaldson owns a Christmas Tree farm at Greenmount, outside Lisburn.

While he works independently through the year but during the festive season he employs about nine casual workers.

"I was fortunate in that I purchased two years' worth of fertiliser and weed killer when prices were cheaper," he told BBC News NI.

"There are a lot of younger people purchasing real trees this year - first-time tree buyers - as well as a lot of families who come out with their kids to buy their tree.

"They are put under pressure by their kids to buy their tree. When kids fly the nest, parents have a much smaller tree, a token tree."

Social media plays a part too, he added.

"We do get a lot of people videoing themselves picking out their tree for social media - and we also get sent a lot of pictures of the finished tree decorated in their homes," he said.

Mr Donaldson started planting Christmas trees on a part-time basis at his farm in 1990.

It is now a full-time career, with the business spread across 18 acres at Greenmount, as well as two other sites.

He saw a drop in sales in 2022 "by a few hundred trees" due to the cost-of-living crisis.

"People hesitated and thought about buying a real tree last year because of the cost of living - and it was part of the reason we were down in sales a bit last year," he said.

"But things have bounced back. People want a good-quality Christmas tree.

"People have had one hard year and they perhaps don't want to have another one.

"We experienced a similar scenario back in 2008 with the financial crisis. We had one bad year and then it just bounced back."

For Angela Mattero and her wife, Jessica Clews, it's a real tree every year.

Angela says growing up in America she was raised with a real Christmas tree.

"My wife never had a real tree - I influenced her," she said.

"The tree we are buying this year is the most expensive we have ever purchased, but it's something we prioritise, and something we really want, so we just make it work."


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