Smaller supply of Christmas trees in Hawaii pushing up prices

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The rush for Christmas trees is on, even before Thanksgiving.

Sellers say a shortage on the mainland means a smaller supply and higher prices in Hawaii this year.

Families lined up at Richard Tajiri's Christmas Hawaii tree lot in Moiliili on Wednesday.

"The last couple years we came by and inventory was light so we thought we would come a little bit earlier and beat the rush," said Honolulu resident Jay Ana.

Last year, Tajiri brought in about 4,600 trees. He shipped in about 4,200 this time due to the shortfall across the country.

"Some have attributed it to weather change. Others is because old timers are retiring and don't want to do it anymore. some people just give it up and they don't want to grow trees. In Oregon, there are a lot of grape farmers now," he explained.

Tajiri said his customers will be paying more for the first time in 12 years because of higher prices from farmers and increased shipping costs.

"We heard that there was going to be a shortage so we're just hear to beat everybody before there is no trees," said Kaimuki resident Jan Nakamura.

The number of trees shipped to the islands dropped from 126,717 in 2015 to 106,942 in 2016, according to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. The state estimates at least 90,120 trees will arrive by next week. There may be a few more containers coming in early December. The state has been working with Oregon and Washington to bring down the number of hidden pests.

"Some shaking, some cultural practices to reduce the pests, and it has been very effective," said Jonathan Ho, acting plant quarantine branch manager.

Sales also started at City Mill stores. The chain is offering fewer trees at higher prices this year.

"Because of the scarcity of them and the low inventory, it's probably up 25-30 percent," said supervisor Kriss Kross.

City Mill will be closed on Thanksgiving, but Tajiri's lot will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.