Quebec draws on its maple syrup reserves to avoid the shortage

Things are rocking on the blond gold market, and we had to call on the strategic reserve: maple syrup, mainly produced in Quebec, is the victim of its success and of a bad harvest last spring. And this situation could worsen in the future with global warming, experts warn.

This year, to avoid the shortage, Quebec – which produces 3/4 of the world’s maple syrup – has just done what the United States and other countries have done for oil: draw on the reserves put in place to avoid stock shortages.

“It’s normal, that’s what we want: the reserve must be the buffer between temperature, demand and production,” explains Serge Beaulieu, president of the Producers and producers of acéricoles du Québec (PPAQ), who represent more than 11,000 professionals.

The reserve is located in Laurierville, a few dozen kilometers from Quebec City. In a warehouse the size of five football fields, tens of thousands of white barrels are stacked. In the spring of 2021, 105 million pounds, or nearly 48,000 tonnes of syrup were stored there, accumulated for nearly a decade. The stock has since melted: there is currently only about 17,000 tonnes of what they call “Quebec’s blond gold”. The last time it had to be used was in 2009.

Ever warmer spring

The syrup – sap collected through small taps planted in notches in the maple wood and then boiled – is harvested in the spring. But the temperature must be below zero at night, and slightly positive during the day, for this to be possible. “Maple is really in the spring but here the spring was cut short because it got hotter faster than usual so instead of having a good month of harvest, we perhaps did two weeks and small days ”, deplores Laurie Larouche, 23, producer of maple syrup.

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“We had 50% less syrup” this year, adds Maryse Nault, inspecting her notches, hat on her head and feet in the snow on her farm in Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu, 50 kilometers to the east. from Montreal. Last spring, production fell to 133 million pounds (about 60,000 tonnes), below the 175 million drawn in 2020. In this context, next year, producers will be authorized to perform 7 million new taps to boost production for the next three years.

A growing demand for maple syrup

According to researchers from the Quebec Ministry of Forests, the notch yield is threatened: it predicts a 15% drop in yield in 2050. The increasingly hot months of April would be responsible for most of the reductions . And yet, demand is growing in Canada but also in Asia, Europe and the United States. In 2020 and 2021, exports jumped 20%.

“With the Covid, consumers were much more at home, trying to discover new food products”, explains Mr. Beaulieu or “the bulk does not flow in restaurants” but rather “at home”. And it is more and more “used”, agrees Laurie Larouche to “replace white sugar because maple syrup is better for your health than refined sugar”.

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