[MONTREAL, QC] — Some of Canada's maple syrup producers say they're are expecting a financial hit as recent warm weather cut the season short this year, but the price that consumers pay for the sweet condiment should remain stable.
"We don't want consumers to think it's absolutely not out there anymore, but there's less," said Ray Bonenberg, president of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association.
It shouldn't affect the price, Bonenberg said, adding there was a small increase in the price of maple syrup last year and the price is set every couple of years.
"A lot of the product is already sold and you charge the price that you would normally expect to charge," Bonenberg said from his farm near Pembroke, Ont. "Most producers are not about capitalizing on a shortage and shoving a lot of that on the consumer."
Ontario's maple syrup producers are producing anywhere from 20 per cent to 50 per cent or so of what they normally make, he said. Ontario produced about two million litres of maple syrup last year.
"Obviously if the crop is half, people are going to take in half the money," said Bonenberg, who didn't have a specific financial figure.
Along with Ontario, the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are Canada's major producers and they all had an early start, and in some cases, an early end to the season due the recent unseasonable temperatures.
Daytime temperatures above zero and nighttime temperatures just below zero, depending on the region, help make the sap flow. Temperatures hit 20 degrees C and above recently in Montreal and in other areas, well above normal, prompting the maple trees to start budding and signalling the end of the maple syrup season.
In New Brunswick, if the weather cooperates, production should reach last year's level, said Chris Bowie of Infor Inc., a non-profit organization in Fredericton which helps with forest management issues.
But it's not a sure thing and could impact some producers financially, Bowie said.
"There's a lot of operations where it's not just a hobby," he said. "It's their livelihood. We're talking millions of dollars. It's pretty serious if they only achieve half of an average year."
In Quebec, which is Canada's biggest producer of maple syrup, production has basically wrapped early up except for the eastern part of the province and quantities are down in southern areas.
"The heat was intense and it was earlier than expected," said Simon Trepanier, assistant director of the Federation des producteurs acericoles du Quebec, which has 7,400 members. "The maple syrup season was two to three weeks earlier because of this."
Trepanier said he has been hearing that some producers southeast of Montreal have 50 per cent to 75 per cent of their regular production this season.
But Trepanier said it's still difficult to say how much syrup the province will produce overall.
"Everything is really going to depend on the weather in eastern Quebec over the next two weeks or three. Mother nature is really in control of what happens."
But if production in Quebec ends up lower, the federation has a three-year stockpile of 37 million pounds, or more than 12 million litres. Trepanier said that's about a third of an average harvest in Quebec.
Producers who contribute to the stockpile, can draw on it when they need it, Trepanier said. The province's producers also have the option of buying insurance on their maple sugar crop.
In Nova Scotia, production also looks like it could be down.
"I would say it's definitely not a bumper crop," said William Allaway of the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia. "We'll probably come in somewhere around average, maybe a little less than average but at this time of year it's so hard to tell."