Danish trees a Christmas hit in Swiss homes
In a country known for its mountain pine forests it may seem a paradox, but at least two thirds of the trees providing a seasonal decoration in Switzerland's homes at Christmas are imported from Denmark.
The Scandinavian country is the market leader in Switzerland, ahead of Germany and France. In 1999 the Swiss imported 3,000 tonnes of Danish trees, out of total imports of 4,500 tonnes.
Last year consumers spent SFr8.5 million on Christmas trees. The Nordmann pine, which its Danish producers call the "Rolls-Royce of Christmas trees", is a particular favourite.
Two of the country's leading retail chains, Migros and Coop, say they sell around 120,000 individual trees each year. Sixty per cent are Nordmann pines.
A metre-high tree sells in Migros for SFr28, while people living in bigger apartments sometimes buy a two-metre Nordmann for SFr58. Nordmann pines grown in the Caucasus are also gaining a toehold in the market, with small trees selling for as little as SFr7.50.
Migros says that only around a third of the trees they sell are Swiss red pines, but that sales of this tree are in constant decline. The remainder of the trees sold include the more unusual "nobilis" pine and white spruces.
Artificial trees have done little to inspire the Swiss consumer. Sales are limited, and many of those bought end up as window decorations, while pride of place is given to a real tree.
Switzerland exports very few of its own Christmas trees: just 13 tonnes last year, most of which were plantation-grown red pines. The crop for this year was fortunate to escape December 1999's Hurricane Lothar relatively unscathed.
Overseas sales of Swiss trees in 1999 were worth just SFr15,000.
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