November 30, 2021

One week after President Biden tapped into US oil reserves to help with a global shortage, a Canadian group has announced that it will dip into its emergency reserves of maple syrup to try to keep up with global demand.  The Canadian leading trade group, Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, is releasing nearly 50 million pounds of its reserve, which is about half of the stockpile, according to CNN Business.  The trade group is backed by the Canadian government and is at times dubbed the “OPEC of Maple Syrup.”  As of 2020, Quebec produced 73 percent of the world’s supply of maple syrup.  The US is by far the largest buyer of Canadian Maple Syrup.  The reserve was created to prepare for situations when there are poor harvest seasons or a spike in demand for maple syrup.  This year saw uncharacteristic warmth in a short spring, which gave maple syrup harvesters little to work with.  An additional 7 million trees will be tapped for maple syrup this season to replenish the group’s supply to ensure demand is met, and to allow people to continue enjoying maple syrup without delay.

When I looked online, I found Maple syrup is usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (Acer rubrum), or black maple (Acer nigrum) trees, although it can also be made from other maple species  In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before winter, and the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in late winter and early spring.  Maple trees are tapped by drilling holes into their trunks and collecting the sap, which is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.  Most trees can produce 5 to 15 US gallons (20 to 60 liters) of sap per season.  Maple syrup was first made and used by the Indigenous peoples of North America and was adopted by European settlers, who gradually refined production. Virtually all the world’s maple syrup is produced in Canada and the US, and the Canadian province of Quebec is responsible for 70 percent of the world’s output.

Maple syrup is graded according to the Canada, US, or Vermont scales based on its density and translucency.  Sucrose is the most prevalent sugar in maple syrup.  In Canada, syrups must be made exclusively from maple sap to qualify as maple syrup and must also be at least 66 percent sugar.  In the US, a syrup must be made “almost entirely” from maple sap to be labelled “maple”.  The states of Vermont and New York have more restrictive definitions.  Maple syrup is often used as a condiment for pancakes, waffles, French toast, oatmeal, or porridge.  It is also used as an ingredient in baking and as a sweetener or flavoring agent.  Culinary experts have praised its unique flavor, but the chemistry that produces the flavor is not fully understood.  I have found that “Maple flavored” is not the same.

Thoughts:  The Canadian maple syrup supply has faced issues in the past.  In the 2011-2012 harvest, C$18.7M worth of maple syrup (3,000 long tons; 3,300 short tons), was stolen in what has come to be known as “The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist”.  Over the course of several months the contents of 9,571 barrels were stolen from a storage facility in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec.  At first the thieves refilled the barrels with water, but as the operation progressed, they stopped refilling them.  When an annual inventory occurred in July 2012, the Inspector inventorying the barrels found them empty.  In December 2012, police arrested 17 men related to the theft.  Humans have been creating reserves of commodities since our inception, and many count the ability to produce and store grain as the advent of civilization.  In our globalized world, what to store as reserves and when to release it becomes critical.  Reserves are to be shared not hoarded.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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