Monday, March 24, 2008

Global demand for maple syrup is rising, but production is struggling to keep pace

A few weeks ago, we noted that the popularity of maple syrup has expanded globally, but producers have not been able to ramp up output to keep up with the demand. In an e-mail to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, Steven Taylor, the former New Hampshire agriculture commissioner and a journalist by trade, explained the reasons why there will be a shortfall of 25 percent this year in maple syrup production. He writes:
1. Rising petroleum costs--it takes a lot of BTUs to evaporate 40 gallons of sap down to one gallon of syrup, and the plastic tubing that most everybody uses to gather the sap is skyrocketing, along with stainless steel for the processing gear.
2. Lack of people with the knowledge and skills needed to get bank loans and start new enterprises--"sugaring" is a body of knowledge passed down generation to generation, no colleges offer courses.
3. Limitations on land available for development of larger maple operations ...
4. The Federation--the Quebec cartel that controls the 75 percent of global maple production--what will it do? Will it use its quota system to limit expansion to shore up prices longterm? After years of mismanaging the market will it suddenly mend its ways? It's the 800-pound gorilla.
In explaining the limitations on land, he points to the Adirondack region of New York, much of whose trees are off limits to sugaring due to public ownership or private owners who don't want their trees tapped. He also explains that in Maine, areas with maple trees "have been in turmoil recently as longtime pulp and timber company ownership has been liquidated at Wall Street's demand, and new investor owners seem to be unwilling to commit to longterm leases to maple operators."

Recently Jack Shultz of BoomtownUSA noted the potential for maple syrup production as a niche agricultural activity in places beyond New England, as long as they're not too far south, where sugar maples don't grow or do well. He points to the example of a farmer in Illinois who has diversified his farm business by producing 300 gallons a year. (Read more)

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the top 10 states in order of maple syrup production value (in dollars) for 2006 were:
  1. Vermont ($13.9 million)
  2. New York ($8 million)
  3. Maine ($7.3 million)
  4. Wisconsin ($3.1 million)
  5. Michigan ($2.9 million)
  6. New Hampshire ($2.8 million)
  7. Ohio ($2.7 million)
  8. Pennsylvania ($2.1 million)
  9. Massachusetts ($1.9 million)
  10. Connecticut ($600,000)
The NASS does not produce any records for other states.

1 comment:

Editorial Staff said...

The idea that the Adirondacks is "off limits" due to public or private ownership is nonsense.

More than half of the park is in private hands. Most of the public lands are at higher elevations and wetlands - places where sugar bushes don't grow.

The majority of land with sufficient stands of sugar maple are in the lower elevation areas at the edges of the park. I own one, but no one has ever come to my house to ask to buy the sap - which I'd gladly sell.

If there is anything keeping production down, it's the continuous trend away from sustainable living and the producers failure to ask to lease land - ever see an ad in the paper for sugar bush to tap?

Also, people see more value in cutting and clearing the land for timber and development, then they see in annual syruping.

BTW: Love The Rural Blog - keep up the good work.