GardaÃ carried out night air patrols and high-visibility checkpoints to prevent gang raids on Christmas tree farms.
Operation Hurdle – a seasonal initiative involving Garda’s Air Support Unit – will run through the week before Christmas in Co Wicklow.
Growers across the county, which has the highest concentration of festive fir plantations in Ireland, welcomed confirmation that it has been given the green light for the tenth consecutive year.
GardaÃ said flights had dropped significantly last year due to COVID-related travel restrictions that were in place.
However, they said every effort will be made to repeat the success of last year’s operation by focusing on crime prevention rather than detection.
District Superintendent Declan McCarthy said, âThe operation was a success and the activities of criminals were severely curtailed. We want to do this again in 2021.
âAlthough detection is very difficult, prevention is the key with a joint effort of local producers and their security personnel as well as improved security procedures, combined with a targeted Garda activity targeting suspects and vehicles. involved persons. “
Farmer Christy Kavanagh, of Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow, said he would “sleep better” after learning Operation Hurdle had been relaunched.
Mr Kavanagh, former chairman of the Christmas Tree Growers Association, said he plans to supply around 10,000 trees to the domestic and overseas market.
âOur harvest looks very good this year and the trees have done very well. There is an additional demand for real trees and part of that is because people are more environmentally conscious and don’t want plastic trees.
âOperation Hurdle is a great initiative and it is very important to all producers. “
However, a shortage of artificial trees from Asia and the recent mild weather that caused real trees to lose their needles too soon are causing headaches for some growers. John Brennan, of IrishChristmasTrees.com, said shipping costs from China and Thailand are pushing up the prices of artificial Christmas trees.
He explained: “The reason prices have skyrocketed is due to a number of factors, congestion in ports around the world resulting in missed loading and unloading points, and the consequences of the blockage of the ‘Ever Given in the Suez Canal last March.
Mr. Brennan, who has been in business for more than 40 years, said “no business can handle this huge price hike.” The first cousin of famous hospitality brothers John and Francis Brennan said: âAn artificial tree that cost â¬ 103 last Christmas now costs â¬ 150 due to the shortage, but I could not in good conscience pass all of that on. increase on my clients.
âI know many large retailers such as Woodies, Homebase and Homestore & More are expecting a big shipment on December 1, but it looks like there may be delays due to port congestion and it could slow their arrival.
âLarge retailers and garden centers are already facing limited inventory levels. It would normally take four weeks for a shipment to arrive and now it takes seven.
âI’m lucky to have a stock. I have been doing business with the same family in Asia for years and have been doing business with the freight company CH Robinson who managed to deliver my supplies. ‘
Speaking from his store in Dundrum, south Dublin, Mr Brennan said the recent mild weather was also causing problems with the trees.
âIt hasn’t been very cold in the last few weeks, which is a problem. Trees will not keep their needles for very long and they will start to drop after ten days because they don’t like heat.
âCompanies that buy real trees for public places could face the problem of falling trees too quickly and perhaps the headache of having to replace them.
“The later real trees are planted in homes and businesses across the country, the better.”