Canada’s powerful maple syrup cartel is facing a shortage so bad it had to tap into 50 million pounds of strategic reserves



children's fingers catching dripping sap from a tree

They call it “Québec’s liquid gold.”Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

  • Canada’s maple syrup cartel drained about half of its strategic stockpile this year.

  • A short harvest season, coupled with increasing demand, drove the move.

  • “We need to produce more maple syrup,” a spokeswoman said.

Canada’s maple syrup cartel can’t keep up.

The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, known as the maple syrup “cartel” because they control such a large share of the market, is draining 50 million pounds of the sweet liquid gold from its reserve, about half of the entire strategic stockpile, Bloomberg reported.

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

The QMSP, a consortium of more than 11,000 Canadian producers, is dealing with rising demand and dwindling supply. A warm spring this year resulted in a shorter syrup harvest, cutting output by 24%, Bloomberg said. It’s the first time in three years that the QMSP has needed to tap its reserve.

“We’re seeing people cook more at home, and use more local products,” Normandin said, referencing the COVID-19 pandemic as one reason demand for the sweet gooey stuff has surged.

4 members of team canada with medals on, drinking maple syrup

Team Canada drinks maple syrup on March 18, 2018 in Montreal, Quebec.Minas Panagiotakis / International Skating Union via Getty Images

The Canadian syrup cartel controls more than 70% of the maple syrup supply worldwide. US maple syrup production, while a much smaller share of the market, is also down this year.

Just over a decade ago, the Canadian syrup stockpile fell prey to the maple syrup heist of the century. As Vanity Fair later reported, roughly 540,000 gallons of syrup (about 12.5% of the stash) were quietly siphoned out of storage. The heist cost more than $13 million USD, making it the costliest heist in Canadian history.

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