Nobody was more surprised than George Grant when he received a call from a Swedish business to enquire about buying his Christmas trees.
However, the estate manager at Yorkshire’s largest Christmas tree grower, Stockeld Park near Wetherby, says it’s one of a number of overseas enquiries he’s received this year due to the ‘Brexit effect’.
You would think Sweden, with its huge forestry industries, wouldn’t dream of looking to the UK for a Nordmann Fir. But Grant believes the UK has suddenly become an attractive option for all potential overseas customers.
“I’ve also had enquiries from The Hague and Puerto Rico,” he adds.
The cost of shipping is a sticking point, which is why he believes these enquiries haven’t converted into orders. However, he expects Brexit to boost Christmas trees sales regionally this year.
“I expect that people importing trees from Ireland and the continent will look to buy local this year,” he says.
The estate, which grows half a million trees across 250 acres of land, supplies high profile customers including Covent Garden, Bettys tearooms and Emmerdale.
This year it also provided the tree for Robbie Williams’ new Christmas video.
It also sells wholesale across the UK as well as to retailers and hotels.
Grant’s father started the Christmas tree business 30 years ago as a way of diversifying the estate.
Grant’s team plants 60,000 trees a year but sells 30,000-35,000, leaving plenty of room for growth. It employs four full time Christmas tree growers. Staff numbers rise to 20 during harvesting and a further 10 when it comes to selling.
Grant says: “We’re definitely looking to grow. There is a market for real Christmas trees and it has a positive environmental impact. Our Christmas tree operation generates enough oxygen to sustain 4,000 people. You can’t say that about plastic trees.”
According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, an estimated six-eight million real Christmas trees are sold in the UK each year.