Sunday, February 26, 2012

Maple industry booming, due to Quebec-set prices

The maple-syrup industry is undergoing a "dramatic expansion" in the Northeast, thanks to high prices set by Canadians, reports Steve Taylor, who returned to his former pursuits of sugaring and journalism after many years as New Hampshire agriculture commissioner.

"Ground zero" for the boom is Franklin County, Vermont (Wikipedia map), "where all of the major manufacturers of maple equipment have their operations and where producers are expanding at a brisk pace, some with up to 20,000 new taps coming on line this year," Taylor reports, quoting Brad Gillilan, an executive of Leader Evaporator, the nation’s largest manufacturer of sap evaporators: “The industry in the U.S. is as big as it’s ever been, and it’s growing all over.”

"Syrup production the United States has been expanding at the rate of 10 per cent per year over the past five years from new taps coming on line, and then there’s another five percent increase in production coming from the aggressive adoption of new technologies, including improved tubing systems, higher vacuum, more powerful reverse osmosis equipment and new evaporators with far greater fuel efficiency," Taylor reports in a story first written for Lancaster Farming.

Photo by John Russ, Bangor Daily News
He writes that syrup prices are "buoyed" by the Quebec provincial maple board, "which controls the pricing and sets quotas for how much all maple producers in the province can make." That, in effect, establishes a floor price for all of North America because about three-fourths of the maple syrup produced on the continent comes from Quebec.

The market opened earlier because of the unusually warm winter. "This winter’s strange weather pattern has oldtime maple producers scratching their heads, unable to recall an earlier full-throttle start to the sap flow," Taylor reports. In some locales sap ran well during warm spells in January."

Looking ahead, Taylor sees "tightening of food safety laws, which could force many maple operations to upgrade their facilities." Citing Bruce Bascom of Acworth, N.H., "one of the largest producers, packers and distributors of maple products in the Northeast," he writes, "Vermont’s new voluntary sugarhouse registration program points the way toward inspection requirements that will have to be met before a producer’s crop will be accepted for purchase." (Read more)

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