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Canada taps into strategic reserves to deal with massive shortage ... of maple syrup

Producers plan to tap 7 million more maple trees to meet syrup demand.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
Producers plan to tap 7 million more maple trees to meet syrup demand.

While high gas prices have pushed President Biden to tap into the US's strategic oil reserves, America's neighbor to the north is also dealing with a shortage of another so-called "liquid gold".

The Canadian group Quebec Maple Syrup Producers recently announced it was releasing about 50 million pounds of its strategic maple syrup reserves — about half of the total stockpile.

Quebec produces nearly 70% of the world's maple syrup, with the US being its biggest client for the sweet stuff. However, this year producers weren't able to keep up with worldwide demand, which jumped 21%, according to Bloomberg.

Maple syrup is made from the sap from maple trees, which is traditionally harvested by installing a metal tap into the tree's trunk. Modern sap harvesting typically involves a system of plastic tubing and vacuums to collect the sap from multiple trees to a central location where it can be refined into syrup.

A drop of fresh sap falls from a tap in a maple tree.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
A drop of fresh sap falls from a tap in a maple tree.

This is a seasonal process though, as maple sap can only be harvested in specific weather conditions. So, this year's short and warm Spring resulted in an uncharacteristically low yield for producers.

"That's why the reserve is made, to never miss maple syrup. And we won't miss maple syrup!" said Helene Normandin, the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers' communications director.

While it's hard to predict what next year's crop will look like, Normandin said they were already planning for the future.

"What we can figure at this moment is maybe the season here in Quebec will start a bit earlier in February, instead of March, and end earlier also," she said.

This is not the first time Quebec's maple syrup reserve has made headlines. In 2012, more than 3,000 tons of maple syrup were stolen from the stockpile over the course of months. The value of the heist was estimated at nearly $19 million Canadian dollars.

The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers will be tapping 7 million more trees in the near future to replenish their reserves and to make sure they can meet demand next year.

So go ahead and top off those pancakes and waffles with the Canadian liquid gold this holiday weekend.

The audio version of this story was produced by Gustavo Contreras and edited by Jonaki Mehta.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.