No live Christmas trees from Ikea this year

Melissa Lin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Nov 16;

For the first time in more than 20 years, Ikea will not be selling live Christmas trees here this year.

"It has been increasingly challenging to guarantee the freshness of the trees through the current means and maintain low prices for our customers at the same time," a spokesman told The Straits Times.

The furniture store's Nordmann Fir trees are usually shipped in from Sweden in air-conditioned containers to preserve their freshness. The decision affects stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

As an alternative, Ikea has stocked up on more artificial trees this year.

It is also trying to find a solution to the challenges, the spokesman added.

The demand for live trees is on the rise in Singapore.

Last year, 38,800 live pine trees were imported here, up from 28,400 in 2014, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). The trees were from Denmark, Sweden and the United States. In 2008, some 7,700 trees were brought in.

The bulk of the trees usually arrive towards the end of November, AVA said.

The increase in the popularity of live trees here is matched by greater demand where they are grown, said Mr Mok Keng Houng, business manager at wholesale florist Ji Mei Flower. It has become more expensive to buy them, but Mr Mok said they cannot increase the price.

He added: "We have to see if the market can handle (any price increase)." His firm gets its Noble, Nordmann and Fraser fir trees from the US.

Floriculture company Far East Flora, which has been accepting pre-orders for its Noble and Nordmann firs since Nov 1, said response has been good so far.

Prices start from $78 for a 1.2m- to 1.5m-tall Noble fir tree for orders made by Nov 30, and go up to $88 after that.

"We have seen a younger crowd and more families making Christmas tree shopping an annual family affair in recent years," said its sales and marketing director Peter Cheok.

Sing See Soon Floral & Landscape in Punggol East is bringing in 250 trees, just like last year.

They range from 60cm-tall trees for table tops to 3.7m-tall trees for hotels and malls.

Customer service officer Karen Lim-Gallet, 43, who has been buying live trees to celebrate Christmas for the past 15 years, has ordered one from Far East Flora this year.

"The price of the tree has been increasing by about $10 every year. But I really like the smell of pine in the house, and it adds to the festive mood. It has become a tradition for my family," she said.

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