BRIDGEWATER, N.S.—A Christmas tree cooperative in Nova Scotia has sent 415 Balsam Fir trees to Dubai—just in time for the holidays.
Of course, most Dubai natives don’t celebrate Christmas per se, but Murray Crouse, the president of the Lunenberg County Christmas Tree Cooperative in Bridgewater, N.S., says there are 24,000 Canadians living in the Persian gulf country yearning for an authentic Canadian Christmas.
Crouse is hoping to develop a niche-market for Nova Scotian exports in Dubai —including Christmas trees, seafood and other luxury items—and leverage Halifax’s container pier.
“This has been two years in the making,” says Crouse. “We’ve got a lot of businesses, like seafood, seaweed and blueberry juice piggy-backing on this venture to try and help boost Nova Scotian exports to markets like Dubai.”
Crouse avoided the U.S. market because of the economic downturn, instead looking at far-flung markets for the trees in his co-op. Christmas trees are a $70-million business in the Atlantic provinces.
In all, 415 trees have been sent to Dubai, 52 of which will be placed in public areas like malls, embassies and schools to help promote the plan. The co-op was also able to source 52 maritime-made tree stands to send alongside the trees.
Lower grade trees are sold for $80 in Dubai, while Crouse says trees wholesaled in the U.S. sell for as little as $6.
This isn’t the first time Canadian trees have been sent overseas, but it’s the first time a high-quality tree is being sent on a two-month voyage.
“Trees have been sent to Panama—which takes about 11 days by boat—and to Japan, but those trees were meant for outdoors, meaning the quality didn’t have to be as good,” he says. “But these trees are meant to compete with the best Fraser Fir’s on the market.”
Needle retention was a major concern, as well as whether the trees would last the 30 day ocean voyage.
To ensure a safe arrival, a climate controlled container was set to five degrees Celsius. Four 20 litre buckets of water were placed in the container to maintain humidity in the container so the trees wouldn’t dry out.
The co-op worked with EduNova, a Nova Scotia-based co-operative of education and training providers and logistics firm Atlantica Worldwide Logistics—the latter counseled Crouse to avoid the U.S. market.
Crouse says there is also work being done in Nova Scotia on a “smart” Christmas tree to open up the province’s trees to more global markets.
The “smart” tree being developed will last between 60 to 100 days without losing many needles.
Raj Lada, who leads the smart tree research, is examining how a hormone called ethylene—which affects the life-cycle of a plant, tree or fruit once it’s harvested—can be blocked from synthesizing in the trees once they’re shipped.
Simply speaking, Lada could block the ethylene from harming the trees by developing a receptor the tree absorbs through water.
Should the smart trees come to fruition, it could be a major boost to Nova Scotia’s ability to supply foreign markets with Christmas trees, which Crouse says are the world’s best.
“We’re developing a Balsam Fir that will stand up to the Fraser Fir, the world’s best Christmas tree,” he says. “This is a major opportunity for Nova Scotia to become the world’s Christmas tree capital.”