Christmas tree growers take steps to combat thieves

Christmas tree growers have stepped up security on their farms to combat the growing threat of criminal gangs attempting to hack down their festive firs.

Christmas tree growers take steps to combat thieves

The Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association said most of its members have taken extra security measures, such as employing security guards and setting up CCTV cameras and motion detectors around their plantations.

Gardaí have launched regular air patrols around Co Wicklow, which is home to one of the highest concentration of Christmas tree farms in the country.

Dermot Page, the chairman of the Irish Tree Growers Association, said the measures were necessary to minimise the threat of raids on the farms of the group’s 80 members, who were all busy harvesting bumper crops of trees.

“We as an association are in co-operation with the gardaí, who are on extra alert at this time. The gardaí have the GPS co-ordinates of all plantations and are patrolling. Most growers also have added security in place.”

Mr Page said the warm summer had helped to produce a fine crop for growers, with the result Ireland was now “self-sufficient for trees where in the past we had to import”.

Over 300,000 trees grown here will be sold in the domestic market, with another 200,000 shipped to the UK.

However, Mr Page said he believed that too many families are shunning real trees and were opting for plastic replicas instead.

“A survey we did last year showed 60% of customers who buy trees think a fake tree is better for the environment than a real one.

“We are putting out the message this year to correct this. Real trees are natural, renewable and recyclable. The fake tree is six years in your home, but 6,000 in a landfill.”

Grower Christy Kavanagh, who is a three-time winner of the annual best Christmas tree award, said he expected to supply 7,000 trees from his isolated farm in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, to the Irish market this year.

“Things have gone very well this year. The conditions were ideal for growing, with good weather in the summer and it’s cold and dry at the moment, which is ideal for harvesting.

“There seems to be a huge demand for real trees this year, as I’ve heard one or two garden centres have already sold out of them. It seems like people have a few more bob in their pockets this Christmas.

“I’m delighted to say that there’s been no raids on my farm. The gardaí are keeping a close eye on things and are doing a very good job.”

Denmark is still the largest producer of Christmas trees in Europe. However, the high-quality trees produced in Ireland, helped by a suitable climate and good seed cultivation, have made this country the biggest exporter of festive firs to the UK, with strong demand also from France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

The Nordmann fir accounts for 75% of the trees grown in this country, with another 15% made up by the noble fir and the remaining 10% by several other varieties.

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