Citing difficulties in dealing with regulatory requirements, most of the vendors that usually provide Christmas trees have said they will not be doing so this year.
Vigoro Nursery, Cost-U-Less, and Trees4Life have all stated that they will not be importing real trees this year. Businesses that are still aiming to import include Hurley’s and Every Bloomin’ Thing.
Scot Kristal, who works in marketing for Hurley’s and is heading up the importation efforts, estimated that the number of providers who dropped out of the Christmas tree market will cut the territory’s supply from about 3,000 in 2017 to 1,500 this year. Hurley’s, for its part, is planning to import about 1,000.
Many providers are hesitant to import trees this season due to a shifting regulatory landscape, which comes after Department of Agriculture inspectors discovered “live pests” in several shipments last year. The department eventually allowed the trees to come in to Cayman after the pests were killed, but the shipments were held up for re-inspections before they were released.
After last year’s near-fiasco, the Department of Agriculture told importers they should have growers in Canada apply fumigation spray to their trees before shipping them here, according to Mr. Kristal. However, the spray the department wanted to be used was banned in Canada, he said.
The department and the importers eventually came with a workable solution, where the grower in Canada will use a pre-treatment solution on the trees. The solution involves putting pesticide in the ground, where it will be absorbed by the trees while they grow, Mr. Kristal explained.
The process of getting to this point was a hassle, but Hurley’s manager Mike Miller said it was worth it to make sure the store’s customers have a happy holiday.
For other providers, however, the red tape was too much to navigate.
“Vigoro is not able to get our beautiful Fraser Fir trees this year,” the nursery explained in a released statement on Friday. “We have tried our best, but the past few years there have been continual import regulation changes that have made it extremely tedious and risky, and yet again, there have been more changes this year.”
Cost-U-Less made a similar statement.
“It has been increasingly difficult and time consuming every year for us to be in this business concurrently during our busiest time of the year,” the company stated. “We struggled last year to meet island requirements and this year is no different.”
Trees4Life, which donates proceeds from tree sales to charity, also said that while the Department of Agriculture came up with a solution to allow importations, that solution came “too late in the season.”
“Due to the overwhelming difficulty experienced last year with the importation process, we have decided to not bring in Christmas Trees for the 2018 season,” Trees4Life stated. “We worked hard to find a solution this year. Unfortunately, the solution came too late in the season for us to provide the quality Christmas trees our customers have come to expect.”
While Hurley’s and Every Bloomin’ Thing are able to meet the Department of Agriculture’s requirements to import the trees, there still may be some difficulties in bringing the trees to the shelves. Mr. Kristal explained that once the trees get here, they will be inspected by the department.
If inspectors find pests, the trees will have to be fumigated and inspected again, he said.
Nevertheless, Mr. Kristal and Every Bloomin’ Thing owner Ricky Handal are optimistic that the trees will be available by around Thanksgiving.
Hurley’s is taking pre-orders now, while Every Bloomin’ Thing will sell the trees at its location on a first-come, first-served basis.
Meanwhile, Cost-U-Less said it will offer artificial trees, and Vigoro said it will soon be offering an “environmentally friendly option … we will post soon.”