Maple Syrup’s OPEC Hits Back Against the U.S. With Record HarvestBy
Quebec aims to reclaim market share, fight black-market sales
‘Weather has been on our side’ for output boost: federation
Quebec, the world’s largest maple-syrup producer, said this season’s harvest rose 2.7 percent to a record amount large enough to fill 24 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Production this spring rose to 152.2 million pounds from 148.2 million in 2016 after farmers increased the number of syrup-extracting taps on maple trees by 1.4 million, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers said Wednesday in a statement.
The producer group, which regulates how much farmers can sell, allowed more tapping as part of a push to win back market share lost to the U.S. in the past decade. Quebec farmers chafed against the federation’s quota on output with some sellers turning to the black market to boost sales.
“Since 2013, the weather has been on our side,” Serge Beaulieu, the federation’s president, said in the statement. “We’ve been getting cool springs and slow thaws. That means more maple syrup for us.”
The extra syrup will allow Quebec to “increase its presence in foreign markets and keep investing in promotion and marketing” of the province’s “liquid gold,” Beaulieu said.
The increase in output doesn’t signal a drop in prices because the federation is a sales agency that sets bulk prices for about 72 percent of the world’s syrup and limits production through quotas. The government-sanctioned cartel stores unsold production in a reserve in Laurierville, Quebec, where 60 million pounds are set aside in case the crop is reduced by weather damage or pests.
Quebec farmers have expressed frustration with output limits in recent years after U.S. producers increased their share of the world market. U.S. output last year jumped 23 percent to 4.2 million gallons from 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in June. The number of taps rose 5 percent in 2016 after increasing 45 percent from 2007 to 2015.
Quebec announced last autumn that it would increase the quota on tree taps by 5 million in order to boost output. All new taps should be in production by 2018, which will increase syrup production by an additional 15 million pounds, according to the federation.