Irish Christmas tree growers are gearing up for a bumper season as the annual tree harvest gets into full swing this week.
And growers have welcomed news that An Garda Síochana is to launch a campaign aimed at preventing Christmas tree thefts, a problem which has been a scourge to the industry in the past.
The Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association (ICTGA) is predicting an increase in the number of real trees sold this year.
Approximately 350,000 were purchased in Ireland in 2015, and growers say this figure could increase to 400,000 in 2016.
The industry is worth an estimated €21 million to the economy, according to the ICTGA.
A number of growers have already begun harvesting their crop to get supply ready for export.
This work will intensify in the next week with growers working flat out to meet deadlines to ensure an adequate supply of trees for the domestic market by the beginning of December.
ICTGA spokesperson Dermot Page said they have received confirmation from Superintendent Paul Hogan of Wicklow Garda Station that Operation Hurdle, aimed at combatting Christmas tree thefts, is to be launched later this month.
Since Operation Hurdle was first introduced three years ago, growers say that there has been a dramatic decline in the problem.
Mr. Page said:
“This is a really positive move.
“The support from the Gardaí combined with improved tagging systems and security measures at different Christmas tree farms have made a huge difference.”
“We are appealing to all growers, and indeed the public, to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity near Christmas tree farms in the coming weeks.”
The ICTGA is expanding its “Love A Real Tree” labeling system to help guide consumers to buy a home-grown product of the highest quality. It will be launching a #lovearealtree campaign at the end of November.
Mr. Page said the recent cold snap has been ideal for harvest, which involves cutting trees and leaving them on the ground for a minimum of two days to allow them “close down” before being netted.
The most popular tree is the Nordmann Fir, which has a dark green needle. Other species in demand are the Noble Fir, Fraser Fir, Korean Fir, Norway Spruce and Lodgepole Pine.
The average sized tree in Ireland is between seven and eight feet high.
A young tree spends its first three years in a nursery and is then grown for a minimum of eight years on a farm before harvest.