Maple syrup producers have been forced to raid the world’s only stockpile of the highly valued sweet treat, as surging worldwide demand combined with an unusually short harvest season in 2021.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, sometimes referred to as the “Opec of maple syrup”, has released about 22m kilograms of syrup from its strategic reserve to cover a shortfall driven by a short and warm spring in 2021, Canada’s NPR reported.
At the same time that production fell, pandemic-fuelled demand for the sticky substance jumped 36% from 2020 to 2021, according to federation figures.
Quebec provides almost three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup, and production is tightly regulated by the federation, which maintains a vast stockpile to cover fluctuations in yearly production. It is the first time in three years the reserve has been called on.
Syrup harvesting is highly dependent on the weather, and can only occur in a short window when temperatures are above freezing during the day but below 0C overnight.
Syrup federation spokesperson Hélène Normandin told NPR that the release, which amounts to almost half the total reserve, would ensure that demand was catered for.
The federation is already planning for next year’s harvest, and announced earlier on its website that it would tap an extra 7m trees in 2022.
“What we can figure at this moment is maybe the season here in Quebec will start a bit earlier in February, instead of March, and end earlier also,” Normandin told NPR.
It is not the first time the stockpile has made the news. In 2012, thieves made off with nearly 3000 tonnes of the liquid gold, which at the time was worth around $18m, or 13 times the price of an equivalent amount of crude oil.
The theft was discovered by chance, when a man taking inventory on top of the pile grabbed a barrel to steady himself, only to lose his balance and nearly plunge from the stack because the empty barrel was 300kg lighter than he expected.