Farmers in Queensland say they are concerned that the cutting down of Christmas trees will lead to a loss of valuable biodiversity and could lead to the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.
“I think it’s a real concern because we don’t know how much that’s going to be worth,” said James Jones, who runs a farm in Wagga Wagga, near Alice Springs, south of Brisbane.
“What’s the cost of Christmas tree cut down to produce a cardboard card?
That’s not good enough.”‘
No one wants to buy Christmas trees’Mr Jones says he is working with the Federal Government to create a “Christmas tree farm” that would grow trees for Christmas.
The scheme would be funded by the Federal government and a donation from the Australian Farmers Federation.
“We’re not trying to sell the Christmas trees, we’re just trying to put them on a permanent basis,” he said.
“What we want to do is not just grow them, but grow the tree and we want it to be as sustainable as possible.”
Mr Jones said the Christmas tree farms could be located in remote areas of Queensland and the state was in the process of establishing its own Christmas tree farming zones.
“You could have it on the ground in the remote areas and we’re looking at the potential to start somewhere in the north of Queensland,” he explained.
“There are many areas where there are no trees and there are lots of other species that are in decline and that’s why we think this is the way to go.”
He said that if the project was successful, the trees would be exported to Europe, where they would be used to make Christmas cards.
“It’s not only about the Christmas card, it’s about the people buying them and being able to send them overseas,” he added.’
No way to feed a billion people’Mr Smith agreed.
“Christmas trees are a major contributor to our diet, we have a huge amount of tree material to sell and it’s really expensive to make and to store,” he told Al Jazeera.
“So it’s very difficult to feed the billion people who are in the developing world.”
The Federal Government has said that the Christmas Tree Tax Credit scheme would encourage the purchase of local and seasonal trees for local consumption, with an estimated cost of $20 million over the course of the year.
“If you want to grow a tree and have a holiday party, the first thing you have to do, whether you want a tree to be a tree or not, is to pay the tax,” Mr Smith said.
The program was introduced to replace the previous Christmas Tree Farm Tax Credit Scheme, which was scrapped in March 2018.
“The reason we introduced the new scheme was to support farmers in growing local and sustainable trees and to encourage people to buy local and sustainably grown trees,” a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said in a statement.
“A recent report found that a large number of Australian Christmas trees were harvested on an industrial scale, and there were over 2.5 million trees harvested in 2016-17.”‘
It’s about sustainability’But Mr Smith, a farmer himself, says that while he supports the program, he is concerned about its impact on the environment.
“When you’re cutting down trees for trees, you’re also chopping down trees and the forest,” he continued.
“People want to eat trees.
And if you have a tree in your backyard, you want it grown and harvested and you don’t want to feed those people that need it the most.”
Mr Smith says the Christmas Tax Credit Program is “not about saving trees” and is “only about feeding people”.
He said the idea of selling local trees would help people to save money, but not necessarily the trees themselves.
“This is about feeding the people that we are feeding, that we need for Christmas, that our neighbours need, that they need to be fed,” he concluded.
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