Peak oil, peak water… peak Christmas!

As regular readers will know, we’re always on the lookout for the latest emerging scarcity trend – so, in keeping with the seasonal mood, here’s why your Christmas tree seemed so pricey this year:

The price of trees has risen sharply for the second consecutive year because of the combination of a Europe-wide shortage and the weak pound. A 7ft Nordmann fir – the most popular variety – could now set you back between £40 and £50, up from £30-£40 in 2007.

“It’s very much a seller’s market,” says Ian Millward, managing director of Trees for Christmas, which sells about 8,000 trees wholesale each year. This year Mr Millward sold his entire stock before December 1, two weeks earlier than usual. “It’s certainly the worst shortage I’ve known. I’ve only been able to buy a finite supply of trees,” he says.

Thrillingly, it seems that falling prices a year or two ago led to a precipitous decline in investment, setting the stage for a supply crunch… just like oil!

The supply of Nordmanns from Denmark, the largest exporter of Christmas trees within the European Union, has fallen sharply since 2005 following a steep decline in prices, which caused growers to stop planting.

Peak oil, peak water, peak food… peak Christmas? 

Happily not, dear readers: in fact, there’s a silver lining in here for Britain. You may think that we don’t export much these days other than Collateralised Debt Obligations and The X Factor. But you’d be wrong:

Not only does the weak pound raise the price of imported trees, it also makes exporting a more attractive prospect for UK growers.

Britain to the rescue! The feelgood factor returns! Unfortunately, of course, in what’s probably a taste of what’s to come on the economic front in 2010, that means fewer trees available for those of us at home.

“We used to buy a lot of trees from Scotland but we just couldn’t get any from suppliers there this year,” says Richard Doubleday, owner of Sandon Garden Centre in Chelmsford. “It seems some growers sold out their stock to European buyers because they could get a better price due to the difference in the euro and the pound.”

So, it seems you can add Christmas tree growers to the National Shit List, along with bankers and MPs. Happy Christmas!