Christmas tree vendor seeks better year after 2020 losses
Whenever Ipal Smith leaves his Penlyne Castle, St Andrew, dwelling and sets up his trees along Constant Spring Road, you know it is time to start buying Christmas decorations.
Yesterday, Smith and his business partner Omar Watson were the first two persons to journey down the steep mountain road to sell the popular pine trees that he says light up the homes of Jamaican families. Without a doubt, the area will be lined with Christmas tree farmers before the week ends, giving Jamaicans from all walks of life an option to make a purchase.
The Rastafarian smiled brightly as he welcomed the news team, before stating that he weathered the bone-chilling weather during the wee hours to harvest the trees for sale.
"We are up in the mountain in my water boot and raincoat about 5 o'clock and start cut the trees. The place cold bad but this is the sacrifices we have to make. When they [customers] buy the trees from us, it motivate me to just continue doing what I'm doing. There are persons who are saying that we are going into the forest and cutting down trees but we plant these trees, we just don't cut them," Smith said.
Smith says he has been selling Christmas trees along Constant Spring Road for about two decades, but adds that the COVID-19 pandemic gave the business a battering last year.
"I used to come and sell with my father but now he stays in the field. Last year wasn't good and I would have lost about $700,000 of sales. This year is looking good so far because there are about five Land Rovers making delivery. I came out about midday and I sold three of six trees already," he said. Smith says that the trees are in high demand and that he has customers from as far as St James.
"You have people who all a go farrin but dem love the scent of trees so dem decorate it and leave in dem house and when dem come back the place smell fresh. There is something about the live trees that warms the heart of people. It make Christmas feel real," he said.
A Christmas tree typically sells for $1,600 per foot. The average tree is four feet long, and takes up to five years to get to that stage. Watson adds that it takes a lot of dedication to nurture the trees to perfection.
"The trees just don't shape themselves, so yuh have to shape it out and trim it as it grow. It's a lot of hard work because they need to be fertilised and sprayed, and during the drought you have to carry water in the forest and water dem," he said. Smith says that although Christmas is weeks away, the trees will still be fresh for the Yuletide season.
"They can last up to two months. We also sell stands and buckets so when they place them in the buckets with water, the water feed them and keep them fresh so they will last. They can also use a spray bottle and spray them as well," he said.