Saturday, September 15, 2012 By Renuka Kannappan

Maple syrup is a natural sweetener used all over the world to accompany pancakes, bacon and French toast. But what if the world ran out of maple syrup? On Friday, August 31st, news broke that thieves had stolen 30 million dollars’s worth of Quebec’s strategic maple syrup reserves. That’s more than a quarter of the province’s extra supply.
During a routine inventory check at a warehouse about 100 miles northeast of Montreal, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers noticed scores of empty barrels. These barrels — more than 15,000, to be exact— were supposed to contain an estimated 10 million lbs. of syrup, an amount worth more than $30 million.
While strategic reserves are typically linked to the oil industry, Quebec has kept a vast store of maple syrup since 2000, to be used if the supply of maple syrup falls due to poor yields, or if demand of the commodity reaches levels higher than is expected.
Serge Beaulieu, the president of the Maple Syrup Dederation, said, “The St-Louis-de-Blandford warehouse has been secured by a fence and locks, and is visited regularly. Thankfully, the sales agency’s maple syrup inventory is spread across several storage locations which were not subject to theft.
Beaulieu also issued a statement that said the syrup was being held at the warehouse temporarily while the finishing touches are put on a new storage facility in nearby Laurierville, Quebec. It was supposed to be transferred over the coming weeks.

“Quebec police are investigating the matter,” said spokesman Sgt. Ronald McInnis.

Quebec, called the Saudi Arabia of syrup, produces about 75% of all of the world’s maple syrup. The province has the ideal spring conditions of warm days and cool evenings that allow the sap to accumulate in maple trees, the same stuff that is later refined into maple syrup. The theft comes at an inopportune time, with bad weather leading to bad yields in the United States, increasing dependence on Quebec’s supply.

Current theories suggest that the stolen goods will be sold on the black market. Federation director Anne-Marie Granger Godbout said, “Obviously those people stole the maple syrup to sell it somewhere.”  She also added that the black market selling, “could be very harmful for the maple syrup industry. The companies that are working in this industry will have to compete with some company that didn’t pay for the maple syrup.”

Though 10 million pounds might seem like quite a bit of syrup to vanish, the federation said there would be no immediate effects on the global supply. Still, it looks like there really is a need for emergency syrup reserves after all. Who’s laughing now?