Christmas tree market set to deliver €21m seasonal boost
Work is underway to harvest 550,000 Christmas trees worth €21m to the economy, as the festive season fast approaches.
Around 80 growers are expected to sell 350,000 on the Irish markets, with a further 200,000 exported to countries including the UK, German and France.
It can take up to 10-years to deliver the perfect Christmas tree, explained Dermot Page, the chair of the Christmas Tree Growers Association.
"As growing conditions have been good this year, trees are displaying particularly good colour, so we're expecting a very good crop for 2015," he said.
This year the growers are appealing to people to buy an Irish tree and support growers here by picking a tree with a 'Love A Real Tree' label.
James O'Toole from Fairwood Christmas Trees in Carnew, Co Wicklow, explains growing the trees is a very "labour intensive" job.
"They are a 12 month a year job. There is pruning and weed control - every month of the year there is a job to do," he said.
"It is a big business in Ireland and it gives a lot of employment to people."
Mr O'Toole, who won the Best Christmas Tree award this year, said the bulk of the cutting would get underway this week, with the aim of cutting enough volume to suit the market demand.
"The weather has been a bit damp up to now but the frosty weather will help as it will close down the trees," he said.
The grower produces both Noble Fir and Nordmann Fir, with the latter proving easier to grow and more likely to deliver the 'perfect' Christmas tree shape.
Mr Page said they were also working with gardai as part of Operation Hurdle to combat the number of trees stolen from Irish farms.
Mr O'Toole said there wasn't a problem with it in his area as it was a heavily farmed region, but it was an issue for growers in particular regions.
Tony Kinlan from Wicklow Way Christmas Trees said they used to carry more sheep on their farm but had since shifted to trees as they were more profitable.
"Trees don't lamb in the middle of the night," he quipped.
"A few years ago people planted a load of Christmas trees but didn't tend them.
"They are specialised and need to be looked after, and the tractors and equipment for tending to them is expensive."
He explained it takes "countless hours" to deliver the traditional shape. Mr Kinlan said the trees would remain in good condition until January.
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