By Keith Norbury
About the same time that mandarin oranges are arriving on Canada’s Pacific coast from Asia, another symbol of the holiday season is departing the Maritimes for the Middle East.
“We had one notable project last year to deliver a container of trees into the United Arab Emirates for the first time,” said Patrick Bohan, Manager of Business Development at Halifax Port Authority.
The live Nova Scotia balsam firs were cut down in late October and early November and loaded into 40-foot refrigerated containers for the long journey via the Suez Canal.
Greg Sheaves, manager and co-founder of Atlantica Worldwide Logistics in Dartmouth, N.S., said his company brought Christmas tree growers together with EduNova, a Nova Scotia education cooperative that has a branch office in Abu Dhabi.
“We had the Christmas tree people here that had the best product in the world,” Mr. Sheaves said. “They didn’t know how to sell it outside of their lot.”
Atlantica worked out the price of shipping and did all the logistics while EduNova “educated the people there how to handle the Christmas trees to keep them in pristine shape,” Mr. Sheaves added. “So it took a year and a half and then a first container went.”
The trees are shipped in the same kind of temperature-controlled container that might otherwise carry potatoes, Mr. Bohan said.
The trees delighted at least one Nova Scotia expatriate living in the Emirate when the 450 trees arrived in December, CBC News reported.
“It smells like home. It’s nice for our family to have a little bit of Nova Scotia right here,” said David Waugh in a video posted on the CBC website.
A professor from Dartmouth, N.S., Mr. Waugh had been teaching in Dubai for four years and was eager to spend $80 on one of the trees, which originated from the Lunenburg Balsam Fir Co-op.
The CBC report also quoted Mr. Sheaves, who explained that “we put moisture in the containers to allow the trees to absorb moisture for the duration of the trip.”
Murray Crouse of the co-op told CBC that “if this plays out, I think we’ll be selling trees in the UAE for many years to come.” Mr. Sheaves, meanwhile, said he’s looking at shipping trees to the Caribbean as well.
In 2010, Canada exported 1.8 million Christmas trees worth $28.4 million, according to Statistics Canada. Nearly $26 million worth of that, about 1.6 million trees, went to the United States. Panama, Venezuela, the Netherlands Antilles, Bermuda, and Aruba accounted for much of the rest.
Quebec led all provinces in Christmas tree exports in 2010 with 883,000 trees worth $14.7 million. Nova Scotia was second with 540,000 trees worth $7.3 million. And New Brunswick was third with 333,000 trees worth $5.7 million.
Oddly enough, Ontario has the most Christmas farms – 725 of Canada’s 2,461 farms – when last tallied in 2006. However, in 2010, Ontario exported only 8,700 trees worth $154,000. Part of the discrepancy can be explained by Ontario farms being mostly small family operations.