A first batch of Christmas trees was cleared for sale by Department of Agriculture inspectors Wednesday and was almost sold out by lunchtime.
Vigoro Nursery on Walkers Road was packed with shoppers throughout the morning.
Staff at the garden center said 110 trees had been cleared for sale and they had sold more than half by noon Thursday.
“I’m not sure how they got the word out but we’ve been busy all morning,” said landscape supervisor Lane Hildebrandt as he chain sawed the stump off a tree for a customer around noon on Wednesday.
The center still has two more containers waiting for inspection and hopes to put another 260 trees on sale in the next few days.
All shipments of imported Christmas trees were held up by the Department of Agriculture this year after inspectors found “live pests of multiple species” in the trees.
The department is asking importers to treat the trees to kill the bugs so they can re-inspect the shipments and decide if they can be released.
Assistant Director of the Department of Agriculture, Brian Crichlow, said as of late Wednesday, portions of shipments of Christmas trees to four importers – Vigoro, Hurley’s, Trees4life and Every Bloomin’ Thing – had been successfully treated, re-inspected and released to the importers for sale.
“To facilitate the treatments, the shipments were divided between multiple containers to allow for better circulation of the aerosol treatment agent. As such, not all containers were treated at the same time and therefore portions of some shipments are still pending completion of the treatment protocol and re-inspection. A shipment to one other importer is still pending post-entry treatment,” Mr. Crichlow said.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, six 40-foot containers of Christmas trees had been imported.
Vigoro’s first batch cleared for sale in the morning and Every Bloomin’ Thing, on Crewe Road, announced on its Facebook page that its trees had been cleared for sale late Wednesday afternoon.
Vigoro was a hive of activity throughout Wednesday as workers busied themselves cutting and carrying trees and tying them to car roofs for shoppers keen to get a jump on the crowds.
Customer Vivian Bould said she was happy to get her hands on a real tree.
She said, “I would love to say this happy occasion of the trees being released has put a Christmas smile on everyone’s face.”
Cousins Vincent Baker and Andrew Mathias were among the hordes of shoppers picking up their trees Wednesday.
“I’m delighted,” said Mr. Baker, “Christmas is just around the corner. We just need to get the lights up now.”
Jeff McGlashan of Trees4Life, which raises money for a flight scholarship for young Caymanians through tree sales, said, “We are doing what we can to work with the DoA to treat the Christmas trees and to ensure at the same time that the tree that enters your home is safe and is something we would put in out own home.”
Trees4Life has brought in 850 trees this year. Some of the proceeds from sales go to the Zak Quappe Flight Scholarship, set up in honor of a young man who died in a car accident on Cayman’s roads in 2013.