Norwegian trees spread Christmas happiness abroad

Photo: Scandinavian Christmas Traditions

Photo: Scandinavian Christmas Traditions

People in more and more countries are celebrating Christmas with Norwegian trees. Norway is in the process of becoming Europe’s leading producer of Christmas trees.

“The Norwegian Christmas tree industry has become a success story in recent years. Christmas tree production is profitable and provides new opportunities for rural Norway and for Norwegian agriculture,” says Minister of Agriculture and Food Lars Peder Brekk.

“Finland has tried to take Father Christmas away from us. Now we are taking the Christmas tree market in Europe!” says Brekk.

Over the last few years Norwegian Christmas tree exports have exploded. While there were no Christmas tree exports at all five or six years ago, this year around 140,000 trees will be sent out of the country. In 2006 only 2,500 trees were exported. Trees are sold to Germany, England, Austria and Switzerland. At the same time, imports have been reduced by 40 percent since 2003.

The signs are that the growth will continue; prognoses from the industry organisation Norsk Pyntegrønt show that planting will increase by over 50 percent annually. In the present market it is thought that it would be easy to sell 2 to 3 million more trees than are sold today.

Norway is a dominant player in Europe

“The industry has become much more professional. People don’t go into the woods looking for trees any more. They have planned plantations on their own land, which is often of little use for producing food and is threatened with abandonment. Christmas tree production makes few demands on soil quality or type of location and is well suited to the coastal and fjord climate of West Norway,” says Brekk.

“The value of Norwegian Christmas tree production is already greater than Norwegian fruit production,” points out Minister of Agriculture and Food Lars Peder Brekk.

Together with the United States and Denmark, Norway is a leader in research into Christmas tree growing.

“Norway is aiming to be a dominant player in the production of Christmas trees in Europe,” says  Brekk.

Subalpine fir

Central to the development of the Norwegian Christmas tree industry is the relatively new subalpine fir variety, which is the kind of Christmas tree everyone likes to have: narrow in shape, smells good, doesn’t drop needles. This variety is well suited for growing in Norway’s cool climate, because it likes a short growth season.

The subalpine fir is a particularly Norwegian product. All research and development on this variety in a Christmas tree context is being done in Norway. Many people believe this will be the big new variety for Christmas tree growing in Europe.

2 million trees

The market for Christmas trees in Norway is growing and is currently around 2 million trees with a market value of half a billion kroner. Many homes now have several trees. More and more are choosing the so-called noble firs in preference to normal fir trees; the percentage has grown from 10 percent in 1998 to 50-60 percent today. Surveys show that a large majority prefer Norwegian trees and are happy to pay a little more for them. The European market for noble fir Christmas trees is about 50 million trees.

90 years of Christmas trees in Universitetsplassen in Oslo

The Christmas tree tradition began in the early 16th century in South Germany and Switzerland. During the 19th century, Christmas trees became known over most of Europe and America. In Norway, it was priests and teachers in the towns in particular who introduced the Christmas tree tradition. In Christiania (now Oslo) the first Christmas tree was recorded in 1822. The Christmas tree in Universitetsplassen in Oslo was erected for the first time in 1919.

Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Food

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