Why Does Canada Have A Maple Syrup Reserve?
Why Does Canada Have A Maple Syrup Reserve?, Canada is the world’s largest supplier of maple syrup, which means shortages cause huge problems for buyers. Why Does Canada Have a Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve?, On Friday, news broke that thieves had stolen some $30 million worth of syrup from Quebec’s strategic maple reserves. Yes, you read correctly. Much as the United States keeps a stock of extra oil buried in underground salt caverns to use in case of a geopolitical emergency, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has been managing warehouses full of surplus sweetener since 2000. The crooks seem to have made off with more than a quarter of the province’s backup supply (I personally suspect these guys).
Why exactly does Canada need to stockpile syrup? To find out, I called up Michael Farrell, an extension associate at Cornell University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and an expert in all things maple.
“We think of it as a little cottage industry here in the states,” he told me. “But up there [syrup is] a big industry that’s responsible for a lot of people’s livelihoods.”
Canada took over from the United States as the mecca of maple in the 1940s, as shown in this graph from a paper Farrell co-authored last year. Today, Quebec taps 75 percent of the world’s supply, and its producers have been attempting to grow their market abroad. Shipments to Japan, for instance, rose 252% between 2000 and 2005.
But harvesting maple is a fickle business, and that makes expanding the industry tricky. The trees need cold nights and mildly warm days to yield sap, meaning production can vary greatly year to year based on the weather. That’s a potential problem for the big syrup buyers, whether they’re bottlers or large food companies that make cookies or cereal. Quaker can’t pour a bunch of time and money into developing a maple and brown sugar flavored version of Life, only to find out it won’t be able to get enough of its ingredients, or that they’ll have to pay through the nose for each liter of syrup. Same goes for buyers in Asia, which are already taking a risk by trying to introduce customers to a new flavor.