Live Christmas trees a hit among Singaporeans

Christmas trees (main picture) at Far East Flora. At an EcoWise Holdings recycling plant, tree trunks and large branches are first broken up with an excavator (above left), before being put through the crusher (above right).
Christmas trees (main picture) at Far East Flora. At an EcoWise Holdings recycling plant, tree trunks and large branches are first broken up with an excavator (above left), before being put through the crusher (above right).ST PHOTOS: ASHLEIGH SIM, NG SOR LUAN
At an EcoWise Holdings recycling plant, tree trunks and large branches are first broken up with an excavator (above), before being put through the crusher. -- ST PHOTOS: ASHLEIGH SIM, NG SOR LUAN
At an EcoWise Holdings recycling plant, tree trunks and large branches are first broken up with an excavator (above), before being put through the crusher. -- ST PHOTOS: ASHLEIGH SIM, NG SOR LUAN
Christmas trees at Far East Flora. -- ST PHOTOS: ASHLEIGH SIM, NG SOR LUAN
Christmas trees at Far East Flora. -- ST PHOTOS: ASHLEIGH SIM, NG SOR LUAN

Popularity has been growing steadily among S'poreans

Live Christmas trees are fast growing in popularity here as more people are looking to create an authentic ambience to usher in the Yuletide season.

Latest figures provided by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) showed that about 13,900 live Christmas trees have been imported this year - the highest number in the past five years.

Last year, about 12,500 trees were imported, compared with about 7,700 in 2008.

Floriculture company Far East Flora, which imports Noble and Nordmann firs from the United States, said such trees are becoming increasingly popular among residents, especially younger ones. "Apart from relieving home owners of storage space (as the trees will be disposed), the biggest draw is that a live tree has a nice fragrance to it to give an authentic festive mood," said the nursery's sales and marketing director Peter Cheok.

A Far East Flora spokesman said all their live Christmas trees have been sold out since last week.

Wholesaler and importer Ji Mei Flower said that its sales volume of live trees has risen by about 5 to 10 per cent this year.

The increased sales of live trees has also resulted in spillover demand for tree disposal services, which were first offered here about three years ago. Depending on the size of the tree, such services can cost $35 to $40 each.

For Ikea Singapore, it is offering incentives like rebates to customers who return their live trees. Last year, the store saw the number of trees that were returned jumping more than 10 times from the year before, said Ms Wendy Poh, regional customer relations manager of Ikea Singapore.

Customer service manager Karen Lim, 40, who buys a live tree for Christmas every year, lists convenience as the main reason for engaging a provider of tree disposal services.

"It's not easy to get rid of the tree on your own," she said.

A check with retailers and nurseries here found that once the live trees are collected or returned, contractors usually take these trees to recycling plants where they are turned into wood chips for fuel.

One such recycling plant is operated by environmental solutions provider EcoWise Holdings - it gets about 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of trees and horticultural waste every month.

"The trees disposed of after the Christmas season may push up the numbers slightly, but the bulk still comes from tree pruning," said its senior manager of group operations Kenny Huang.

Priest Jacob Ong, 59, who has been buying live trees every Christmas, does not see the need to pay for recycling services. He said: "I'd rather do it myself. I sometimes use the pine leaves to make wreaths."

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg