Friday, February 22, 2008

Tap a tree: American maple-syrup industry booms

The appeal of maple syrup has long traveled far beyond the woods of New Hampshire and Vermont; now that appeal has reached Europe and Asia. That growth in customers, plus the weak U.S. dollar, has helped the American maple industry outsell its Canadian rivals, former New Hampshire agriculture commissioner Steve Taylor writes for The Valley News in White River Junction, Vt., and Lebanon, N.H.

"Folks long used to buying a gallon of new-crop Vermont or New Hampshire syrup hot from the evaporator for $35 will be in for a surprise this year, for the reality is that there are buyers in Japan or someplace else who are willing to pay far more, although it will probably be packaged in many tiny bottles," Taylor writes. "Though these new economics may make it seem like a bonanza is in the offing for syrup producers, sharp increases in energy costs for evaporating and for the plastic tubing that is now the norm for gathering sap will restrain any exuberance."

Taylor, whose family sells syrup, explains that the increased demand has helped New England producers compete with Quebec, which accounts for 75 percent of the world's maple syrup. The province's Federation — the price-fixing organization a producer must join — has set the baseline for maple syrup for everyone in North America, but its mismanagement of surpluses and the weak U.S. dollar have created demand for American product, Taylor reports. Still, all maple syrup is more valuable now, and the price could continue to climb about 10 percent annually as the supply can't keep up with demand. Keeping up with demand is the concern for those in the risky industry, so producers are upgrading technology in hopes of maximizing output. (Read more)

1 comment:

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