The Biden administration is trying to reign in gas prices by releasing oil from the US strategic reserve — but a different sticky supply situation north of the border has spurred Canadians to tap their emergency stockpile of maple syrup amid a major shortage of the sweet stuff.
The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers is a government-sponsored cartel that controls some 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup supply and is sometimes compared to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ grip on oil.
The consortium of more than 11,000 Canadian maple syrup producers said this week that a warmer- and shorter-than-expected spring led to a 24 percent year-over-drop in production of the pancake topping.
Amid surging demand for syrup as more people cook at home amid the pandemic, the cartel has been forced to tap a whopping 50 million pounds of syrup from its strategic reserve.
That’s the most the group has released from the reserve in a single season since 2008 and amounts to about half of the entire stockpile.
Helene Normandin, spokeswoman for the group, which sets bulk syrup prices, caps production and controls the stockpile, said the group will authorize more production of syrup next season in order to make up for the shortfall this year.
“That’s why the reserve is made, to never miss maple syrup. And we won’t miss maple syrup!” she told NPR.
The French-speaking Canadian province produces more than 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup supply.
“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 added.
Export sales reportedly rose to 113.5 million pounds between January and September of 2021 — up a whopping 21 percent from a year earlier, as people turned to the sugary topping to sweeten home-cooked meals during the pandemic.
The short and warm spring season hit maple syrup production particularly hard because tree sap is only able to be harvested during a small window when the temperature alternates between freezing and thawing.
The harvesting of sap and subsequent refining of it into syrup can be an intensive process that’s heavily reliant on weather conditions, making year-to-year supply volatile.
This year marks the first time in three years, though, that the group has to tap its reserve.
It’s not the first time Quebec Maple Syrup Producers’ strategic reserve has made headlines.
In 2012, thieves made off with more than 3,000 tons of maple syrup — worth some $19 million Canadian dollars — from the stockpile. The syrup was quietly syphoned off from the reserve over the course of months.