Christmas is in short supply
Dec. 19, 2011
by Ivan Raconteur

Shortages of key items are threatening Christmas around the world.

BBC news recently reported Christmas tree prices have risen again this year after a shortage of trees across Europe.

Wholesalers say that rising demand and a shortfall in the number of trees planted could cause prices to rise by 10 percent, and as much as 36 percent for taller trees.

The price of the Nordmann fir, which accounts for 80 percent of UK Christmas tree sales, has almost doubled over the past five years.

Across Europe, according to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, more than 60 million trees are sold every year. Last year, there was an estimated shortfall in production of about 5 million trees, and this year, the situation is worse.

There is a serious shortage of anything over 6 feet in height, and 7- and 8-foot trees are in particularly short supply.

Some say the Danes, who are among Europe’s largest tree growers, switched to other crops to take advantage of European Union subsidies.

It is shocking to think that a government initiative may have had unintended consequences.

Others in the industry say a longer-term rise in prices has been occurring.

Some reports show a 5 percent increase in the wholesale price of most trees this year, but since 2006, the price has almost doubled.

Another shortage that is threatening Christmas traditions involves a key ingredient in holiday baking.

A serious butter shortage is spreading across Scandinavia.

Sweden was the first to run into supply problems, blamed, in part, on a television chef urging everyone to use butter.

Now, it has been reported that Norwegians are facing a similar crisis. Butter supplies have melted away, sending prices soaring and shoppers frantically buying up the stuff wherever they find it.

With the sense of national crisis deepening, a national newspaper ran a two-page spread with instructions on how to make your own butter.

The dairy farmers blame Norway’s largest dairy co-operative, Tine, for sending product overseas even as a domestic shortage loomed. Tine blames a combination of bad weather and higher demand arising from the popularity of a low-carbohydrate diet craze. Demand for butter has risen by 30 percent.

Norwegians are trying to cope in different ways. The search for butter has become almost a national pastime.

A black market has developed, and people have been arrested for smuggling butter.

We can only hope that the crisis won’t extend to this country.

Cookie exchanges and holiday celebrations would be in grave danger if America’s cooks were unable to get butter.

Another worrisome shortage involves a Christmas icon that has been declining in Europe for several years, and now, the crisis is hitting closer to home.

The quantity and quality of this year’s mistletoe harvest have suffered because of the drought in Texas.

Some suppliers have been unable to get inventory, and others have chosen not to purchase the available stock because it does not meet their quality standards.

Most of us are familiar with mistletoe. It is a type of greenery with white berries that women festoon all around their houses at Christmastime in the hopes of catching guys standing underneath so they can kiss them.

According to people who know about these things, mistletoe is a parasitic shrub that grows on trees. If it is not managed, it can kill the host tree. Only two of the more than 900 species worldwide are native to North America.

Mistletoe fans have been scrambling to find alternatives this season.

Some enterprising individuals have even resorted to virtual mistletoe – cards with pictures of mistletoe on them. It is unclear if anyone has been successful getting kissed as a result of carrying around a picture of mistletoe.

These shortages have shaken the very foundations of the Christmas season.

I have even heard rumblings, unconfirmed at this time, that there may be a shortage of those giant ribbons rich people use when giving their loved ones (or even their spouses) a new car for Christmas.

At least I assume it is the rich people doing this. It certainly isn’t anyone I know. The way the economy has been going lately, a good pair of socks is a fairly extravagant gift in my world.

With all of these shortages going on everywhere, we might have to go old school and share simple things like peace on earth and good will to all men (and women) this Christmas. It wouldn’t cost anything, and it could make a real difference in the world.

Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

If it doesn’t work out, we can always go back to hating our neighbors and mistreating one another after the holidays.

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