“It takes ten years to grow Christmas trees yet we have less than twenty days to harvest, transport and market them. But we know when it’s Christmas and we know how many trees to sell.”
Still Hans Schultz and his team have a huge challenge: producing, selling and transporting 4,000 truckloads of Christmas trees, produced and delivered all over Europe to make people happy in the darkest days of the year.
Being in control
The Denmark-based Green Team Group, a large player in the European Christmas tree business, has a strict strategy. Schultz: “We want to control breeding, growing, trading and transporting, from producing seeds to delivering mature trees. Producing all over Europe means producing close to our markets and spreading our climate risks.
Our main weapon against price pressure is delivering a better tree. This requires an exceptional operation and rigorous preparation. If a location is wet because of heavy rains, you have to secure trucks to reach the trees at harvest time. In our end phase, timing is everything. After felling a tree, it has to lie for four days in order to acclimatise to having been cut to its roots. Otherwise, it will lose its needles later at the customer’s house. After this period there are only a few days to pack, transport and deliver the trees.”
Nordmann is king
By far the most popular Christmas tree is the Nordmann fir. Schulz: “Since it’s cheaper, the Norway Spruce used to be more popular, but since we reduced the price difference between the two, consumers more often choose Nordmanns. Still, we track consumer preferences continuously.
Christmas tree preferences differ per region. In Germany and Denmark, for instance, Christmas decorations are hung under the branches so they need an airy tree. The British and the French prefer using garlands so they ask for a more compact tree.”
From seed to tree
Green Team Groups trees come from self-sown seeds out of which young plants are grown at seed harvesting plantations in Denmark and Georgia. These young plants are brought to maturity at production locations in Denmark, Poland and Scotland. “Our production is sustainable,” says Schulz. “Our trees are not in competition with the rest of nature since they are grown at special locations. We use minimal chemicals in fertilization and disease control so we can produce under the standards of GLOBALG.A.P.
We check every tree three to four times per year so that they grow into the correct shape. Our business proves that growing Christmas trees is more than just growing any other type of tree.”