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Mark Neeley, left, the sales and merchandise manager at the Camp Foster Exchange, and Gerri Tonaki, stockroom manager, unload Christmas trees at the store Tuesday morning.
Mark Neeley, left, the sales and merchandise manager at the Camp Foster Exchange, and Gerri Tonaki, stockroom manager, unload Christmas trees at the store Tuesday morning. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — For the first time in two years, homes here can be filled with the authentic aroma of fresh pine as Christmas trees, once again, are available for purchase.

More than 1,150 trees arrived Tuesday and were to go on sale starting Wednesday. The trees, from just over 2 feet to 8 feet tall, can be bought only at the Camp Foster Exchange from 9 a.m. to dusk daily. The tree lot is outside, on the exchange’s left side; a cash register will allow purchase without having to enter the store. The trees, priced by type and size, cost from $16 to $46, said Mark Neeley, the store’s sales and merchandise manager.

He said the trees were cut in early November but were shipped in refrigerated containers, with snow packed in, to keep them colorful. Daily watering should help keep them fresh throughout the season, he added.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service personnel said the trees were a welcome sight, especially given that last year’s 1,000-tree stockpile couldn’t be sold after Japanese inspectors found them infested with the harmful strawberry root weevil. Offered the choice of sending the infested trees back or destroying them, AAFES chose to incinerate them.

Both crops of trees came from Washington state but this year’s harvest was deemed bug-free, said Nick Devincenzo, AAFES distribution center manager for Okinawa. He said the Douglas and Noble fir trees were inspected when they arrived in mainland Japan, which enabled their delivery to Okinawa a week early.

Neeley said before inspection, the trees are fumigated and left in the containers for several days. The containers then are opened and the trees re-inspected to ensure no harmful stowaways were on the trip.

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