General discussion

Canadian trade cartel robbed of $18 million worth of.....

...maple syrup:

It was an inside job of sorts. Thieves with access to a warehouse and a careful plan loaded up trucks and, over time, made off with $18 million of a valuable commodity.

The question is what was more unusual: that the commodity in question was maple syrup, or that it came from something called the global strategic maple syrup reserve, run by what amounts to a Canadian cartel...

Both the size and the international scope of the theft underscore Quebec's outsize position in the maple syrup industry.

Depending on the year, the province can produce more than three-quarters of the world's supply. And its marketing organization appears to have taken some tips from the producers of another valuable liquid commodity when it comes to exploiting market dominance.

"It's like OPEC," said Simon Trepanier, acting general manager of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. "We're not producing all the maple syrup in the world. But by producing 70 to 78 percent, we have the ability to adjust the quantity that is in the marketplace."

Since 1999, Quebec's maple syrup industry has used a marketing system found in other Canadian agricultural sectors, particularly dairy and poultry.

Put simply, the supply management system sets strict quotas for producers and, in the case of maple syrup, requires them to sell their product through the federation.

The sap that becomes maple syrup after being boiled down often flows for only a short period each spring. Weather changes can introduce wild fluctuations in how much emerges from sugar maple trees.

To maintain stable and high prices, the federation stockpiles every drop its members produce beyond their quota. During bad seasons, it dips into that supply.

"In the States you have the strategic oil reserve," Mr. Trepanier said, continuing with his petroleum analogy. "Mother Nature is not generous every year, so we have our own global strategic reserve."

There's another cartel that needs breaking up! Devil
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(NT) Pancake lovers...Unite! (and bring butter)
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Agricultural policy in Canada since the Depression has been

overseen by various Provincial product Boards or Pools in order to stabilize revenues for the farmers who produce the goods. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, the Manitoba Lumber Board, all put in place in order to stabilize producer's prices. This Maple Syrup Federation, sound exactly the same. But any producer who controls so much of the product is in place to play games with it, as the Oil Companies have proven over decades by jacking up the price at the pumps every weekend, and OPEC has since the 70's with its manipulation of the price of oil.

Milk poultry and pork are all handled the same way. This is not a cartel in the old meaning of large producers colluding to fix prices, or to protect an illegal product like a drug cartel. This is a corporation represnting thousands of smaller producers created at the behest and with the approval of the Canadian government via the democratic process whose charge is to keep prices high enough to support continued production, but not too high for consumption. Now Quebec approaches the management of things rather more like OPEC than any of the other Boards or producers Federations. Since Quebec sees itself surrounded by English speakers, they have a much more "elbows out" response. Their Federation, knowing it holds 70% of the world's supply, are bent on maximizing profits, not simply supporting the producers. It is a perversion of the intent of that sort of "production board or federation" but is in line with Quebec politics and social attitudes. From personal experience, Quebec is a little like the Deep South. Show up there with an out-of-province license plate, and be prepared for tickets.

For Maple Syrup part of the issue is the destruction of habitat and resources elsewhere. New England used to be virtually self sufficient in Maple Syrup production, but isn't now partly because so many trees have been weakened by pollution from Pennsylvania's former Iron and Steel works. Ontario's Maple Syrup production has been struck hard by the pollution from industrial Cleveland, and other Ontario production ruined by the Super Stack at Sudbury, Ontario Canada, which was designed with pollution control equipment which was never bought or installed. Photographs from space show a long scar across Ontario and into Quebec where trees have been sickened and killed by Sulphites and Sulfates released by the smelting process.


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Good writeup Rob.

I lived in Canada for many years and you're right about the boards and the balance between price and keeping production in the country.

If Canada didn't have this, their dairy industry would be slaughtered and gone forever. Along with the jobs and more.

Thanks for the good writeup.

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We tend to buy local

Don't use much maple syrup but I buy during the maple festival and it lasts all year.


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