In Quebec, a provincial marketing board is fomenting a rebellion among maple syrup producers. Producers refer to the marketing board as “a cartel” and “a mafia.” Some producers are resisting quotas and fixed prices on their syrup. Others are even resorting to smuggling their syrup out of the province and selling it on the black market. And there have been consequences: backed by the justice system – and police – the marketing board has initiated raids and product seizures.
Quebec’s producers voted to create the commodity marketing board in 2001, seeking more reliable prices and less market volatility for maple syrup. Now, many producers say “they simply want the right to trade in their harvest freely. To sell to whomever they choose. To fetch the highest price they can, and to collect payment upon delivery. The federation does not allow this.”
But they [producers in Quebec] didn’t anticipate how that decision would threaten their dominance in the maple syrup market. Just as OPEC’s cartel drove up the price of oil in recent years, making it increasingly profitable for North American competitors to tap shale deposits in North Dakota or exploit Alberta’s oilsands, the stable price of maple syrup has inspired a kind of sweet gold rush across eastern North America —threatening Quebec’s supremacy in the sugar bush.
Threatening the dominance of Quebec’s maple syrup producers? New producers who are coming into the market, not only from other parts of Canada, but in the United States. Maine, Vermont and New York have more than doubled production of maple syrup in recent years.
A fascinating view into the production of maple syrup, this piece also explores important issues about a distinct food culture, commodity marketing and international trade. Stunning pictures and reporting. A must read.