‘Prices for quality trees are likely to be on the increase’

Mark Spurway from Feddal trees – whose plantations include 700 acres in West Perthshire – is the son of Humphrey Spurway. Humphrey pioneered large-scale Christmas Tree production in the UK in the late 1970s and was the first grower to introduce Fraser Fir to the UK Market on a commercial basis.

Mark says, “The business was grown to a peak of sales around 350,000 at the start of the millennium and has settled back to sales of approx, 150,000 within the family.  This is mainly due to big Danish-based consortia growing trees in many European countries including the UK.  The market has been dominated by these large outfits and there has been over production of trees – fortunately the market has remained short of premium quality and most of the surpluses have been a standard lighter grade tree as the management has been lacking.  Prices have remained reasonable for the best quality but have fallen off a cliff for poorer grades, and things appear to be settling down with planting figures reduced in Europe after 2013 so prices are likely to be on the increase.”

Mark describes the planting process, which begins when trees are planted at approximately three to four years old from seed. He adds, “The average time spent before harvesting will be around seven years but will vary greatly depending on location.  Effectively you spend the first three years after planting desperately try to encourage the tree to grow, and the next four years doing everything in your power to slow it down!”

So has this hot, dry summer affected plantations? Mark says, ” In Perthshire not too much as we are never really that short of rain. The dry season will have impacted the newly planted trees just as it impacts newly planted shrubs or flowers in your garden ad there will be losses – but the established trees should be fine.  Also those growers who fertilise their trees will have struggled to get the trees to take up the feed as there will not have been sufficient rain to soak up the fertiliser into the ground.  Long winter, no spring and a hot summer in not ideal – but is preferred to a wet summer.”

So what type of Christmas tree does an expert have in their house, and why? “Fraser Fir for choice. A beautiful scented tree and the best at retaining its needles – or at least that’s what I’d like, but I usually end up scavenging whatever is left in the shed”.