Mexico in Christmas Tree Market

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at
Thu Nov 28 14:20:05 EST 2002

>From The Oregonian, Nov. 15, 2002, p B1 (Business)

Mexico in market
Christmas tree growers expect another successful holiday season in
part because of consistent demand from Mexican shoppers

By ALEX PULASKI, The Oregonian
	Thousands of bundled Douglas firs began arriving Thursday in the
Soriana supermarket chain's Sonora warehouses, evidence of Mexico's
growing importance to Oregon Christmas tree growers.
	Oregon leads the country in Christmas tree production, with a harvest
of 8.3 million trees expected this year. Estimates of the crop's
annual value vary significantly, from a 2001 state Agriculture
Department survey figure of $98 million to industry estimates of about
$150 million.
	What's not in dispute is that Oregon growers expect another good
season this year, and part of that is due to steady demand from
Mexican buyers.
	The 2001 survey concluded that 9 percent of Oregon trees were
destined for Mexico - the industry's largest export market.
	Jim Heater, owner of Silver Mountain Christmas Trees in Sublimity,
estimates that 15 percent to 20 percent of his production is headed
for Mexico. In the late 1980s, his company began sending seven
truckloads of trees there; now it sends mor than 100.
	Francisco Velez, who manages imports for the Soriana supermarket
chain, said his company began buying Oregon trees this year. Soriana
had been exclusively buying Christmas trees from Canada.
	The Canadian trees cost less upfront, Velez said, but trucking costs
from Oregon are lower than from Canada. With freight costs figured in,
Oregon wins on price.
	Velez said while growing up in Mexico, his family never had a tree.
The baby Jesus would leave gifts under the bed or beneath a pillow.
	But cultural crosscurrents from the United States have popularized
Christmas trees among Mexico's upper- and middle-class shoppers. Velez
	John Schudel, an owner of Holiday Tree Farms in Corallis, said the
Mexican market also serves an important function of spreading out the
harvest season. Holiday is the biggest Christmas tree farm in Oregon -
and maybe in the country - and Schudel said cutting and shipping about
1 million trees is much easier when he an start a week earlier to
serve customers in Mexico.
	At Stan Low's Highland Farm of Oregon near Beavercreek, workers this
week began cutting trees, baling them and loading them onto flatbeds.
	Ricardo Bonilla figures that he and another worker can easily fell
200 trees in an hour - more whne they are closely spaced.
	Low's parents planted Christmas trees in 1964, and brought in their
first crop in 1970. This is the 30th year Low himself has been
involved in the business; he is president of the Pacific Northwest
Christmas Tree Assocaition.
	Although prices are promising this year, Low is concerned that a
glout of trees could hit th market within a few years.
	"We already know there are too many trees in the ground," he said.
"What we don't know is whether it's going to take a year or 10 years
for prices to fall."
	Low and his parents weathered poor prices in the late 1980s and early
1990s, when a 6- or 7-foot Douglas fir would sell for as little as $5.
Today the same tree would wholesale for about $14.
	Demand is particularly strong this year for noble firs, which are
commanding roughly twice the price of Douglas firs.
	Like other growers, Low said the Mexico export market has increased
demand for Northwest trees.
	"That's a market that's been steadily growing," Low said.

SIDEBAR: CHRISTMAS TREE SALE: Oregon leads national production of
CHristmas trees, but 90 percent of all trees are headed for
destinations outside the Northwest.

California receives 46% of our trees; other western states absorb 13%,
10% are sold here; Gulf states take another 10%, Mexico is at 9%;
Other 7%; and Atlantic states at 5%.

PRODUCTION: Oregon produces about 8.2 million Christmas trees; North
Carolina produces 7 million trees; Michigan produces about 3.5 million
trees; Washington and Wisconsin both produce 3 million trees each.
Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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