In Belgium’s southern region, the end of the year means a boom in business for one particular sector.
As the festive season begins, December is the time of year that the region’s annual crop of two million Christmas trees go for sale.
Sold wholesale, around 85% of the trees leave Belgium for other countries, making Belgium the second largest European exporter of Christmas trees after Denmark, according to the Walloon agency for the promotion of quality agriculture (Apaq-W).
But this is more than just a festive push for the season of goodwill. It’s big business, with the turnover for professional Christmas tree producers estimated at €35 million.
The sector comprises some 1,000 full-time equivalent jobs (about 450 direct and 550 indirect jobs) as activity extends over the whole year, from the cultivation of seeds in nurseries to their cutting.
The business has also come a long way in recent years, with producers moving towards increasingly eco-responsible and sometimes organic methods, the Apaq-W points out.
Producers affiliated to the Union Ardennaise des Pépiniéristes (UAP) have launched an eco-responsible charter to try to reduce their environmental impact. It aims to progressively reduce the use of herbicides, promote cutting rather than removing root balls, and using animals to clean the land.
“The production of Christmas trees in Belgium is mainly concentrated in Wallonia, specifically in the provinces of Luxembourg, Namur and Liège,” Apaq-W says. “Sites occupy 3,120 ha, of which about 80% is Nordmann fir, 10% common spruce, 5% Fraser fir, and 5% made up of other varieties.”