COWANSVILLE, Que.—Quebec’s crop is significantly down from last year but there’s still plenty of syrup in warehouses.
“We’re going to be 30 million pounds less than last year, is my educated guess,” said David Hall, a 21,000-tap producer in Cowansville, Que. and a director for the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.
Even though the far eastern sugarbushes in the province were still producing late this week, most in Quebec had shut down due to high temperatures and a notoriously low sugar content in the sap, plaguing producers all season.
“Everybody got lots of sap but there was just no sugar in it,” Hall said.
Hall squelched a rumor that the federation was scrambling an emergency meeting this week to discuss the short crop. In fact, he said there is still plenty of syrup in storage to satisfy the marketplace through the year.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of panic out there,” Hall said. “There’s lots of syrup. It’s possible the numbers could come in a little better when it’s all done.”
Hall said there is 106 million pounds of syrup in the federation’s Strategic Reserve, a series of warehouses storing barrels from as far back as 10 years ago. Of that, about 17 or 18 million pounds were commercial grade.
Organic syrup might be in shorter supply, he said.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S. bulk buyers substantially raised their bulk buy prices to secure syrup. Most went up 30 cents with premiums for organic.
The U.S. crop is coming in anywhere between 65 and 75 percent of last year’s record breaker.
Some sugarmakers have said they are sitting on their barrels until the fall to see if the price goes even higher.
But Phil Gudgeon, a producer in Westby, Wisc. who penned an article before the season urging producers to demand a better price, says sugarmakers should be strageic but not “too greedy.”
“You don’t have to be in a hurry here,” he said. “The ball is in the seller’s court. Let’s play with it a while.”
He said producers could sell some barrels now and secure the current improved bulk price, and then hold on to the rest to see what happens.
“Sell enough to cover your costs,” he said. “Then gamble with what’s left over.”
Organic producers are in an even better position since it's in even higher demand and shorter supply.
“I wouldn’t sell any organic for less than $2.75 per pound,” Gudgeon told The Maple News on Thursday.
Bulk buyers said they were rounding up the barrels they need to keep their retail accounts happy for the year.
“We are still buying syrup and have sourced at least 75 percent of what we would like to secure,” said Eric Sorkin co-owner of Runamok Maple in Fairfax, Vt.. “I do not expect to have an issue finding what we still need, and I hope to have the majority of the remainder lined up over the next few weeks.”
Sorkin said he was paying $2.40 for all table grades with a 15¢ organic premium, pretty much in line with the other big bulk buyers in the Northeast.
“It was a poor crop this year, so it is very understandable that sugarmakers are taking their time to make the right decision,” Sorkin told The Maple News on Thursday. “There’s certainly a lot of speculation right now and with that comes risk."
Sorkin said producers may not want to get their hopes up that prices will rise much from here since the federation appears to have ample supply to meet demand this year at current prices.
"With that in mind, I don’t know that there will be much pressure for the major U.S. buyers to move the price upwards," Sorkin said. "But, we’ll see what they do."