Federation president explains maple syrup marketing
Thepresident of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, Serge Beaulieu, made the following comments and observations in an open letter earlier in April.
Every year, Quebecers impatiently await the return of the sugar season. And every year, unfortunately the season brings arguments about how maple syrup is marketed… a song that’s repeated without analysis of the serenades. So, once again, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, representing roughly 7,300 Quebec maple syrup enterprises, must establish the facts.
There are three main sales channels to market maple syrup in Quebec, not just one as is often repeated.
The first channel is through direct sales to the consumer in containers less than five liters in size. All producers, without exception, no matter what size and whether or not they have a quota, can sell this way without any monitoring or inspection by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. According to conservative estimates, direct consumer sales account for about ten million pounds of syrup annually, or more or less 10% of the annual Quebec production.
The second channel is through intermediary sales such as grocery stores, still in containers less than five liters. The 7,300 producers who hold quotas can sell this way and the sales are calculated in their annual quota. The Federation does not intervene in the fixing of prices in this market. Four to five million pounds of syrup are sold this way annually in Quebec.
The third channel is that of bulk sales in containers five liters and larger, mostly in barrels, and is the principal method of sales for the quota holders. The maple syrup producer has the choice of either delivering their syrup to one of about sixty authorized buyers in the province or sell it to the Federation itself who negotiates, before the harvest, the price of bulk maple syrup with the buyers.
Critics of this system have focused their attention on one point from an economic study that reported a decline in Quebec’s share of global maple syrup sales. Actually, the study also reported that “The Quebec marketing system has proven effective at stabilizing the price and supply of syrup”.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers notes that world demand for maple syrup went up from 90 million pounds to 150 million pounds between 2000 and 2015. To meet that increase, the number os taps in Quebec rose by 30 % during that period. More than 380 new businesses started up because of the issuing of new quotas. Since 2009, the maple syrup sales agency has had increased sales of 9.8 % while Canadian exports of maple products have risen 7.6 %. Payments to producers have gone up by 8.5 %.
This year’s harvest could be a moderate one. This brings us to the famous ‘reserve’, which some have called a way to keep prices artificially high. In fact, the reserve was created to stabilize prices by stabilizing the supply. The average price of a can of maple syrup has gone from $8.32 to $8.02 since 2010, while the price of groceries has been increasing faster than the inflation rate. While the reserve stabilized the price paid to producers after the record harvests of the past two years, it will also stabilize the price paid by Quebec consumers after the 2015 harvest.
The majority of maple syrup producers who attended the regional meetings last winter were both satisfied and proud of what the Federation has accomplished. They can earn a decent living from what they produce and they contribute threequarters of a billion dollars to Canada’s gross domestic product.
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