There is black gold and blond gold. Maple syrup, produced mainly in Quebec, is a victim of its own success and poor harvest last spring. Experts warn that this situation may worsen in the future with global warming. To avoid shortages, Quebec — which produces 3/4 of the world’s maple syrup — has done what the United States and other countries have done with its oil: rely on the reserves put in place to avoid running out of stocks.
17,000 tons in reserve
“It’s natural, that’s what we want: the reserve should be the barrier between temperature, demand and production,” explains Serge Beaulieu, chief producer and producer of Acericoles de Québec (PPAQ), which represents more than 11,000 professionals.
The reserve is located in Laurierville, a few dozen kilometers from Quebec City. In a warehouse the size of five football fields, tens of thousands of white barrels are stacked.
In the spring of 2021, 105 million pounds, or roughly 48,000 tons of the syrup, were stored there, accumulating for nearly a decade. The stock has since melted away: there are currently only about 17,000 tons of what they call “Quebec’s blond gold.” The last time it was used was in 2009.
The syrup is made from maple sap collected through small taps planted in crevices in maple wood and then boiled. Harvesting is done in the spring. But the temperature must be below zero at night, and slightly positive during the day, for this to be possible.
“Spring has been cut short because it has gotten hotter than usual. So instead of having a good month of harvest, we might have two weeks and short days,” said Laurie LaRoche, 23, a maple syrup producer.
7 million new incisions to stop the fall
“We had 50% less drink” this year, adds Maryse Nolte, checking her crevices, hat on her head and feet in the snow on her farm in Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu, 50 kilometers east of Montreal.
Last spring, production fell to 133 million pounds (about 60 thousand tons), down from 175 million withdrawn in 2020. In this context, next year, producers will be allowed to practice 7 million new pieces to boost production over the next three years.
According to researchers from the Quebec Department of Forestry, the Notch crop is at risk: it expects a 15% reduction in yield in 2050. The increasingly hot months in April will be responsible for most of the cuts.
Maple syrup is a victim of his success
However, demand is increasing in Canada but also in Asia, Europe and the United States. In 2020 and 2021, exports jumped 20%. With Covid, consumers have been more at home, trying to discover new food products,” analyzes Serge Beaulieu.
And it’s being used more and more “to replace white sugar because maple syrup is better for your health than refined sugar,” says Laurie LaRoche. However, this advice should be tempered, because if maple syrup is rich in manganese and antioxidant compounds, there is still free sugar. So with the associated risks: diabetes, overweight, obesity, cardiovascular disease… As a reminder, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 25 grams of sugar per adult per day.