Fear not, pancake lovers: OPEC of maple syrup taps sticky reserve

Quebec Maple Syrup Producers said it’s draining nearly 50 million pounds (22 million kg) of syrup from barrels in its strategic reserve.

French-speaking Canadian province Quebec accounts for more than 70 percent of world maple syrup production, but output has plunged 24 percent this year following a warmer and shorter spring harvest as overseas demand soared [File: Business Wire]

Fear not, pancake lovers. The OPEC of maple syrup plans to dip into its sticky stockpile to cover a shortfall of the breakfast staple.

The organization, Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, said it is draining nearly 50 million pounds of syrup from barrels in its strategic reserve, about half its stockpile and the most since 2008. The amount being released is equal to more than a third of this year’s harvest in the French-speaking Canadian province, the world’s top supplier. Output plunged 24% this year following a warmer and shorter spring harvest as overseas demand soared, according to the group.

“We need to produce more maple syrup,” spokeswoman Helene Normandin said in a phone interview. “The reserve is there to make sure that we are always able to sell and offer this product.”

Quebec accounts for more than 70% of world maple syrup production and its supply is governed by a kind of government-sanctioned cartel. Quebec Maple Syrup Producers sets bulk prices, caps production and sends unsold output to a warehouse in Laurierville, Quebec, allowing the agency a level of market control rivaling the grip the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has on oil markets.

“The pandemic helped in our case because we’re seeing people cook more at home and use more local products,’’ Normandin said. “It’s not just in Quebec the demand is increasing.’’

Export sales rose to 113.5 million pounds between January and September, a 21% jump from a year earlier. Next year, the group plans to allow Quebec producers to add 7 million syrup taps in response to the rising demand. ​​​​

The time frame for maple syrup production is short and the “sugaring season” typically occurs between late February and end of April as tree sap is only able to flow when the daytime temperatures alternate between freezing and thawing. Warm temperatures across Quebec cut the harvest season short this year.

The production woes come even after the agency moved to increase the number of tree taps to quell black market sales and maintain market share. Quebec farmers have expressed frustration with production limits in recent years as American producers seek to boost their ouput. U.S. maple syrup production fell 17% this year to 3.42 million gallons while the number of taps rose 2% from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The reserve, which was the scene of a notorious heist uncovered in 2012, hasn’t been tapped in three years thanks to back-to-back bumper harvests.

Source: Bloomberg