Isle Christmas trees get airlift
The 4,500 fresh-cut trees are the first large-scale air delivery
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The options for picking imported Christmas trees are getting fresher.
The first-ever large-scale air shipment of the traditional holiday Douglas, Noble and Grand firs was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu last night.
A Boeing 747 freighter operated by Evergreen International Aviation Inc. was bringing 4,500 trees from Portland, Ore. The company grew the trees in its agricultural division.
The trees, which were cut Wednesday, will go on sale at Evergreen's Honolulu International Airport location and through isle wholesalers and fundraisers. They range in height from four to 10 feet.
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The holiday travel season can be tough, especially for a Hawaii-bound Christmas tree.
The more than 2,500-mile trek from the Pacific Northwest often involves hours in a truck and another seven days in a refrigerated shipping container across the Pacific.
Until late last night.
A Boeing 747-200 cargo plane full of Christmas trees was slated to arrive in Honolulu last night.
How many: 4,500
When cut: Wednesday
On sale: At Evergreen's Honolulu International Airport location, 110 Keehi Place, this weekend and through isle retailers and fundraisers during the holiday season.
Shipped by: McMinnville, Ore.-based Evergreen International Aviation Inc.
More information: Call (971) 237-9006
Source: Evergreen International Aviation
That's when a Boeing 747 was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu full of Douglas, Noble and Grand firs, marking the first large-scale air delivery of Christmas trees to the state.
The 4,500 trees were shipped out of the Portland International Airport in Oregon to sell through fundraisers and wholesalers, said Laura Graham, a spokeswoman for McMinnville, Ore.-based Evergreen International Aviation Inc., which is shipping trees grown by its agricultural division.
"There was interest this year, and we thought that it would be a nice thing to do," she said. "Evergreen has shipped small numbers of Christmas trees to Hawaii in the past, but all on boats."
Each tree costs $15 to $20 to ship. Graham declined to indicate what local schools, churches and wholesalers Evergreen is working with, or the retail price for the trees, which range in height from four to 10 feet. In the past several years, isle buyers have paid upward of $200 for an imported tree.
The trees are harvested by helicopter, baled and loaded into refrigerated containers and shipped to their destination within 24 hours, she said. This batch was cut Wednesday at Evergreen's 8,000-acre farm, where the company also grows grapes, hazelnuts and blueberries. About 800 acres are devoted to the harvesting of 100,000 Christmas trees annually.
The majority of Hawaii's Christmas trees are shipped by sea, said Domingo Cravalho Jr., chief of the state Department of Agriculture's Inspection and Compliance Section, which inspects all imported trees.
"We've had sporadic air shipments of trees," he said. "Very small shipments -- this is the first time that I can recall of any large aircraft shipment coming. We are anxiously awaiting it."
The last large surface shipment of trees arrived here the week before Thanksgiving, he said. It had 101 containers each loaded with 300 trees. The agriculture department said last week that it expects about 150,000 Christmas trees to arrive in Hawaii this year, primarily from Oregon and Washington.
Matson Navigation Co., the state's largest ocean shipper, handles four shipments of Christmas trees each year, spokesman Jeff Hull said. The first and smallest shipment arrived on Nov. 10, with the last shipment expected to arrive tomorrow.
"We ship over 100,000 trees during the holiday season," he said. "It's an unusual shipment in that we need to make sure there's a lot of refrigerated containers loaded and inspected at the site."
Most trees are transported on rail from Portland to Seattle, where they are loaded onto a Matson cargo ship that makes a seven-day trip to Honolulu, stopping in Oakland, Calif. Hull said he didn't know how many trees are then shipped to neighbor islands.
Tacoma, Wash.-based Christmas tree grower Kirk Co. is one of six major tree growers shipping to Hawaii through Matson this year. Vice President Ralph Nilssen said the company ships about 8 to 10 percent of its harvest to Hawaii, which accounts for tens of thousands of trees.
"We are shipping about 10 percent more trees than we did last year," he said. "It's a good-size increase."
Kirk's last isle shipment will arrive tomorrow, ranging from the least expensive Douglas firs up to the Noble fir, typically the priciest Christmas tree.
Yesterday's flight will be the only air shipment of trees this year for Evergreen, but the company is considering a repeat trip next holiday season, Graham said.
"We'll see how it goes this year," she said.