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Christmas Tree Shortage? Yes. Turkey Shortage? Unlikely For California

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - It's not even Halloween and already there's a warning about turkey and Christmas tree shortages.

Few industries are immune to supply chain issues nationwide. Holiday favorites, like Christmas trees or Thanksgiving turkeys on the table are no exception. Well, sort of.

Let's start with Christmas Trees – impacted by supply chain delays, drought, fires in Oregon (where many Sacramento-area sellers buy their trees) and it's shaping up to become a season with limited trees. Add to that: demand.

"Other than the fuel prices, you know, tree prices have gone up a little bit. We expect it to be a good year," said Chad Ericson, owner of Chad's Christmas Trees.

Ericson's been in business for 19 years and is no stranger to industry impacts that, he said, don't phase him anymore. Last year, at the height of the pandemic, he said he was 'sweating', worried about customers showing up. They did, and now, he is expecting more this year.

He's had his trees reserved since the summer, around July. He added a few extra to his order to accommodate customers who may not have come last year, or, who can't find a tree at the "other guys."

"The reason for the shortage, of course, is for the drought, fires. The weather, this year as terrible. A lot of the bigger buyer, Home Depot or Lowe's, we don't expect them to have as many trees," said Ericson.

He'll have 5-6 truckloads of trees – each delivery with 500 ready to buy. Some of them, he warns, may be burned – but that won't impact the quality of the tree.

"If they do see a burnt spot on the tree, doesn't mean the tree's dead by any means, it just means the side of the tree got cooked for 7 days straight, it's not used to that," said Ericson.

When to shop: early. Ericson will open Chad's Christmas Trees in West Sacramento the day after Thanksgiving. Others in the industry say to shop early – especially for live trees.

A spokesperson for the Christmas Tree Association confirmed that fires in Oregon, drought, and shipping delays are impacting the industry across the board.

If you're in the market for an artificial tree or other Christmas decoration – be patient. That's the advice from Balsam Hill's Vice President of Operations Mike Shaughnessy.

"It will be a little bit more sporadic. It will be on the consumer to look multiple times to find what they're looking for," said Shaughnessy.

He said Balsam Hill, for example, won't have shortages of items – but some may be delayed due to congestion at world ports that are months in the making. To put it in perspective, Shaughnessy said warehouse deliveries that should have been made in 6-12 months have arrived within the last 3 months.

Shipping time averages used to be 6 weeks, now it's taking 12-15 weeks to get goods in. That means customers may have to check multiple stores or be flexible with their Christmas décor plans due to what is available.

Turkeys on the Table: California-Grown Goes First

The holiday before December: Thanksgiving. For some, it marks the start of the holiday season and a staple at Thanksgiving meals is the turkey.

Bill Mattos, the President of the California Poultry Federation, said fresh California-grown turkeys will be the first to sell out. This is typical, he said, followed by frozen California turkeys as the second most in-demand item.

"I don't think we should call it a shortage, plenty of turkey I think to buy for Thanksgiving, if you want California grown turkey, not everyone will get California grown," said Mattos.

California-based turkey farms can't supply turkey for the entire state, so turkeys are imported from across the country. The issue facing Californians: a worker shortage in the processing facilities.

"That's the challenge. The people who do the work of putting birds in packages, boxes, getting them to the supermarket, and the work inside the plants. We're about 85% capacity in employees right now," said Mattos.

Mattos explains prices will be "all over the place" and fresh turkeys may cost more than they did last year. What he's not concerned about: running out. He said the best way to guarantee turkey for Thanksgiving is by reserving a bird with a local grocery store.

"We try to keep everything coming from California, as close as possible. I think California is the place to be when it comes to food and locally grown items," said Jason Chapman, Assistant Manager at Taylor's Market in Sacramento.

Chapman said their locally-owned store isn't seeing empty shelves and if there's an issue with an item, their store has been able to find and supply an alternate.

No shortage here, but another recommendation, to reserve or shop early for holiday-related items.

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