Ice Storm / Maple Sugar industry impact

ForestFair forestfair at
Mon Jan 19 15:32:06 EST 1998

The Financial Times

TORONTO -- The ice storms that have hit Canada and the Northeast have 
left sweet-toothed people with a sour taste in their mouths by 
threatening the maple syrup harvest. 

Blizzards and subzero temperatures have damaged as much as one-third of 
the Canadian maple trees tapped for their sweet sap, while producers in 
New York and New England fear their crop could be halved.

The damage in Canada has centered on southern Quebec and eastern 
Ontario, which produce almost 90 percent of the world supply. But while 
producers in southwestern Quebec and eastern Ontario were hard hit by 
icy rain, the storm spared key production regions south of Quebec City. 
Quebec's maple syrup industry alone accounts for 80 percent of global 
production and generates $70 million in sales.

Ontario producers, who harvest about 8 percent of world supply, said 
they had lost up to one-third of capacity. Ontario has 70 million trees, 
but producers won't have time before the harvest to tap enough trees to 
compensate for losses, said Ken McGregor, of the Ontario Maple Syrup 
Producers Association.

While some producers warn it is still too early fully to assess the 
damage, losses are estimated at tens of millions of dollars.

Even in good years, the syrup is a luxury item. The retail cost of a 
gallon of the highest-grade syrup costs at least $38.

"The branches were just stripped right off the trees, so a lot of them 
are just stumps,'' said Larry Myott, a maple specialist at University of 
Vermont. "I weighed a twig after the storm, and it weighed 
three-quarters of a pound with the ice, just a half ounce after the ice 
melted off. Imagine that on an entire tree.''

North Americans take their maple syrup seriously. It is extracted in 
February and March through a centuries-old system that places a bucket 
under an incision in the tree. 

First published on Monday, January 19, 1998 

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