COWANSVILLE, Que.—The reserve of table-grade syrup in Quebec is almost down to zero.
"I think it’s a couple million pounds left,” said David Hall, a sugarmaker from Cowansville, Que. and a board member for the Quebec maple producers federation.
A staggering, back-to-back 20 percent increase in sales and consumer demand over the past two years, combined with a short crop last year in Quebec and the U.S. has led to a situation many did not foresee.
“Is it unnerving? Yes. But there’s not much we can do about it,” Hall said.
At this time last year, the federation’s Global Strategic Reserve of warehoused surplus syrup was at 105 million pounds.
As of today its total unsold holdings are now down to 17 million pounds, Hall said.
And of that, four million is industrial, buddy syrup and the remaining after that is mostly metabolized, leaving only the two million that would have a quality standard to be considered table grade.
Packers could use some of the metabolized syrup to blend with better grades to convert it to table grade, if necessary.
Hall said over the past few weeks, U.S. bulk buyers drained out a lot of what was left in the Quebec warehouses to hold as a reserve in their own warehouses, as a hedge against the possibility of another short crop this year.
The sales of Quebec-made syrup has absolutely gone through the roof since the beginning of the pandemic.
In 2019, syrup sales out of the federation were 130 million pounds, then in 2020 sales increased to 147 million pounds and last year sales topped 180 million, Hall said.
In the U.S. most sugarmakers report they are out of syrup too, as a new season begins.
The U.S. does not does not keep track of reserved syrup but most sugarmakers say anecdotally that syrup sales out of sugarhouses are the highest they've ever seen, depleting their supplies.
This summer, the federation allotted seven million new taps in Quebec, as part of their government-sanctioned quota system.
Hall said probably two to three million of those taps will be in production for this current season.