COPENHAGEN (Reuters Life!) - Europe may be more secular than ever but sales of trees to mark the Christmas holiday are rising on demand from city slickers in Eastern Europe, Danish growers said.
About 70 million Christmas trees will be sold in Europe this season. That is 20 million more than 15 years ago, and the positive trend continues due to urbanization and prosperity in Eastern Europe, a Danish Christmas tree farming group said.
"When people move from the countryside to the cities it expands the commercial market for Christmas trees because those people can no longer just go out and chop down a tree in the woods," head of the Danish Christmas tree farmers association Kaj Ostergaard told Reuters this month.
Peder Ostbjerg, who is head of the world's largest Christmas tree producer, Denmark-based privately owned Green Team Group, said he expects the European market for natural Christmas trees to grow to around 85 million trees by 2020.
Whereas the West European markets are quite stable, most of the growth is in the eastern part of the continent, he said. That trend is also supported by a shift to natural trees from artificial in these countries, he said.
Ostbjerg said he expected price increases this year due to low supply because of frost damage to German trees. He also said that the whole Christmas tree industry -- from production to retail sale -- has become more professional in recent years.
Roughly 120 million Christmas trees are used in Europe every year but only around 70 million are part of a commercial market.
Denmark and Germany are the main European Christmas tree producers -- each harvesting around 10 million trees per year -- due to a suitable climate without heavy snow and frost in the cutting season, unlike many other European forest nations.
Editing by Paul Casciato