One of the stranger stories of the year was the theft of $30 million worth of maple syrup in Quebec in August. The Canadian province had been called the “Saudi Arabia of syrup”, and experts worried that such a loss could be “devastating” for the fragile industry, especially if the syrup made its way to the black market.Thankfully police were soon on the case, raiding a facility in New Brunswick in October and finding between 600 and 800 barrels of potentially illicit syrup. According to Ian Austin of the New York Times, arrests were made this week.
The story has highlighted something unusual however — something called a “global strategic maple syrup reserve” ran by what Austin says “amounts to a Canadian cartel”:
Put simply, the supply management system sets strict quotas for producers and, in the case of maple syrup, requires them to sell their product through the federation.
The sap that becomes maple syrup after being boiled down often flows for only a short period each spring. Weather changes can introduce wild fluctuations in how much emerges from sugar maple trees.
To maintain stable and high prices, the federation stockpiles every drop its members produce beyond their quota. During bad seasons, it dips into that supply.
It’s estimated that the “global strategic maple syrup reserve” holds 46 million pounds of syrup, which is more than 4 times the amount stolen earlier this year.