West News Wire: Growers and merchants are warning customers to get ready for higher prices this year as the customary start of Christmas tree buying is about a week away.

Tim O’Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents 38 state and regional associations of growers of Christmas trees and annually provides the White House and the vice president’s residence with a Christmas tree, advised anyone interested in purchasing a fresh tree to visit the farm lot as soon as possible.

“Good Morning America” quoted O’Connor as saying, “You really have to go early if you want to shop the Christmas tree farm.” They have whatever trees they have available for that season and then they’re done. And they have been selling out every year early.”

The American Christmas Tree Association, whose members are Christmas tree manufacturers and retailers, is also encouraging shoppers to buy early as prices will rise as Christmas nears.

“Because inflation impacts absolutely everything, the industry is seeing increases in shipping costs, fertilizer, trucking, everything you can possibly think of, whether it be real or artificial trees. So I think consumers can expect to see anywhere from 5% to 20% increases across the board on artificial and live Christmas trees this year,” American Christmas Tree Association executive director Jami Warner told “GMA.”

Warner also said that shoppers may also see fewer tree options this holiday season.

“People are used to abundance and choice and again, the choices will be limited but choose the tree that fits your lifestyle the best, be it real or artificial,” she said.

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Inflation isn’t the only major issue affecting the Christmas tree industry this season. In some parts of the country, shoppers may notice there are fewer fresh trees due to drought conditions and climate change.

At Kadee Farm in Greenville, Texas, a town about 35 miles northeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan region, owner Woody Woodruff said a drought that started in the spring decimated over 1,000 trees on his 53-acre farm, which grows Virginia pine trees.

“There’s gonna be a lack of trees this year. In the South, which includes Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, there’s some tree growers that are all down in those states that experienced drought conditions and therefore it’s gonna be a little more difficult to get the trees that we needed,” Woodruff told “GMA.”

Both the NCTA and ACTA representatives say there should still be plenty of Christmas trees for everyone interested at the end of the day, real or artificial. “We always say there’s a tree for every family,” O’Connor said. “There are trees for different budgets too. So if you really are concerned about price, you know, yes, it won’t be the most beautiful tree on the lot perhaps but there’ll be a tree that fits your price range, that when you bring it home, you’ll enjoy it in your home.”

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