SCOTTISH businesses and landowners are being urged to seize the opportunity of reaping returns from an investment where money literally grows on trees.
Experts believe the festive season provides the perfect platform to illustrate the lucrative benefits of setting up a Christmas tree enterprise in Scotland, and particularly so as this year has seen a serious shortage in their availability.
The Christmas tree industry is worth almost a £1bn a year in Europe alone and although Scotland has a well established supply source, not all of the trees sold to the public in Scotland are grown domestically, with many of the larger trees found in city centres sourced from Denmark.
This year has seen a shortage of trees and coupled with rising demand, prices have increased by around 10%. The shortfall has been attributed to the reduced output by the Danes due to EU subsidies being more advantageous for the growing of other crops.
However,Scotlandis perfectly placed to grow the variety of species that are harvested for festive celebrations – and with an ever-growing demand for larger trees to be sited in shopping and civic centres across the country, investments look certain to remain extremely lucrative.
Geoff Brown, Associate Director at Bell Ingram’s Ayr Office, a specialist in forestry management, recommends landowners and investors looking for new concepts urgently need to explore the option.
He said: “Land owners who wish to diversify and utilise woodlands and land to their full potential should most definitely consider setting up a Christmas tree enterprise
“Based on a three hectare site including initial start up and operating costs, we have estimated that an average return over nine years would be in the region of £105,000.”
He added: “We can also advise those who have more mature woodlands as to how these can be managed for the supply of larger Christmas trees used mainly in town and city centre locations.
“Both business models can generate substantial returns. The forestry sector in general is often seen as a safe investment in uncertain times. It is low risk and largely not susceptible to short term fluctuations. “
Geoff saidScotlandhas the perfect environment and abundance of suitable land for the Christmas tree production.
He said: “Although the Scottish landscape is diverse and soil types and weather vary across the country, there are species of trees that are suited to most environments.
“Generally, the Norway and Sitka spruce trees can grow virtually anywhere, suited particularly to the often wild West Coast. Scots Pine trees are best grown on the drier, sandier soils of the east coast of Scotland. Nordman fir trees require sheltered and drier conditions and so these are suited to the Scottish Borders and Dumfries andGalloway.”
One company that has benefitted from the investment is Elveden Christmas Trees, based in Suffolk, who have been working with Geoff Brown for the past six years, supplying city centre display Christmas trees to Scottish Councils including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverclyde, South Lanarkshire, Falkirk, Midlothian and Dundee.
Forestry and Conservation Manager Jim Rudderham said: “Elveden was the first Christmas tree producer to become UKWAS certified by the Soil Association and the owner of the Estate, Lord Iveagh, is the current President of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association.
“From our own plantations and by working with the Forestry Commission we have developed an extensive resource of the best ‘display Christmas Trees’ in the country.
“We hope to develop further our network throughout Scotlandand work closely with Bell Ingram and their clients to expand resources withinScotland.”