Quebec losing ground in maple syrup production to Vermont

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Quebec losing ground in maple syrup production to Vermont

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 12:13pm -- tim

Vermont Farm Show maple syrup winners, February 2018. VBM photo

by Timothy McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine While the Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec (FPAQ) is struggling with substantial levels of unsold inventory, there has been a significant increase in Quebec's imports of maple syrup, almost all from the United States, according to a report issued today by the MEI. Since the FPAQ started controlling both production and marketing, Quebec has been losing ground to its competitors. Between the start of the 2000s and today, the province has experienced the slowest growth in maple syrup production in all of North America (60%), far behind Maine (131%), New Brunswick (179%), and Vermont (254%).

Quebec, by far the world's largest maple producer, has regulated production to maintain price. US producers, especially Vermont, have benefited from the higher prices, while not being restricted in production.

"While the FPAQ comes down hard on producers that try to get free of its grip, those that are located outside the province take advantage of price stability and a free market to take market share away from Quebec," points out Alexandre Moreau, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI and the author of the publication. "Ironically, these are often producers who have left Quebec to escape the constraints imposed by the FPAQ."

As a result, Quebec's share of global maple syrup production went from 82% in 2003 down to 72% in 2017, whereas it had been increasing constantly since the 1970s, the reports states.

Because of the value and breakthroughs in technology, growth in Vermont industry has been five fold in recent years: 2004 there were 1 million taps; 2017, over 5 million taps.  In 2017, Vermont produced 1.98 million gallons of maple syrup – second highest total on record. In 2017, Vermont led the country in maple production with nearly 50 percent of the US crop.  Approximately 4,000 jobs are supported by the Vermont maple industry. 

Technological breakthroughs are led by reverse osmosis machines, which reduce water content in sap to reduce boil costs and time, and vacuum taps, which increase production per tree.

Note: Growth is based on three-year averages to reduce the effect of harvest volatility.
Sources: Author’s calculations. USDA, Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables, Table 44: U.S. Maple syrup production and value, by state, calendar years, 2003-2017; Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 001-0008: Production and farm value of maple products, 2003-2017.

"Our restrictive rules hurt Quebec maple syrup producers. Those that look to develop their business without going through the FPAQ are subject to searches, seizures, and penalties of up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars," Moreau said.

Considering that the province harvests close to 50 percent of its potential, compared to just 5 percent on the American side, it is imperative to give Quebec producers back their freedom to produce and sell their maple syrup without having to submit to the FPAQ's dictates, the report states. Otherwise, their share of the global market will likely continue to fall.

The restrictive regulations are also blamed for a black market in maple syrup that ensnared a major Vermont producer in 2012. Maple Grove Farms of St Johnsbury unwittingly got caught up in Quebec’s black market after it was discovered (in May 2013) that it had purchased syrup from a seller that had stolen 12 tanker truckloads of Quebec syrup, according to the Montreal Gazette. The syrup was valued at $20 million (CD).

The Viewpoint entitled "Maple Syrup: Quebec Is Hurting Its Producers and Encouraging Its Competitors" was prepared by Alexandre Moreau, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI. This publication is available HERE.

The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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SOURCE MONTREAL, March 8, 2018 /CNW Telbec/ - Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org. State of Vermont.