Christmas tree growers say Garda operation has helped deal with 'huge theft problem'

Christy Kavanagh of Kavanagh Christmas Trees says growers "earn our livelihood in three weeks"

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Christy Kavanagh. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

10:04 1 Dec 2017 Stephen McNeice 10:04 Friday 1 December 2017

In the run up to the festive season, gardaí have deployed a helicopter to catch thieves as part of 'Operation Hurdle'.

With tens of thousands of trees sold across the country in a very short period of time, growers say the now annual operation has helped protect their business.

Christy Kavanagh - owner of Kavanagh Christmas Trees in Wicklow - says theft of trees can be a huge loss to businesses.

He suggested that theft has been a 'huge problem' in the past, with around 2,000 trees stolen annually across the country only a few years ago.

He told Newstalk Breakfast: "It was like organised crime. It was well organised, and a lot of the theft was around Wicklow area and then heading into Dublin with the product.

"[Trees] take four years in the feed bed, then they're another eight to ten years in the plantation. So there could be maybe 12-14 years before the consumer gets the product.

He added: "If we've had it [stolen] we're at a huge loss. It's our livelihood - we earn our livelihood in three weeks."

Christy says his business sells around 10,000 trees per annum, and even his family members are seeing the benefit of Operation Hurdle with an increased Garda presence around the area.

He also had a few tips for those who'll be putting up their tree in the coming days and weeks.

He explained: "If you put your tree on a water stand, you must get whoever you purchased it from to cut 2cm off the base of the tree - so basically you're treating it the same as cut flowers, letting the water back in.

"[When buying the tree] you should pull at the tree and make sure the tree is fresh and strong... that the needles aren't dropping off."