Maple Syrup producers face uncertainty

(Photo courtesy of Saugeen Conservation)

Maple Syrup is being tapped across Midwestern Ontario, but producers are looking at an uncertain market once again in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought most traditional means of maple syrup sales to a screeching halt in 2020, with most festivals cancelled as regions were forced into lockdown.

This year appears to be no different, but you’ll find that the passion and love for syrup production among producers is as high as ever.

Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association President John Williams says the maple syrup harvest across the southern part of the province “is off to a good start, but we have had some reports that the sugar content is a bit lower then normal. Producers are also starting with a bit darker colour then they would normally get in their syrup for this time of the year”.

The darker colour is indicative of slightly warmer temperatures, something Williams says  is good news for those that enjoy a “caramelly-flavoured syrup”, compared to a lighter version that provides “a more creamy, buttery flavour”.

However, gauging the weather properly during maple syrup production can be a challenge.

Gail Cranston works on Cranston Farms on the Lucknow Line in Bruce County, and confirms Williams’ reports of a darker colour of sap locally.

Cranston says “the weather is playing a bit of havoc with it, but we’re used to that. Optimum temperatures are minus-5 at night and plus-5 during the day. You don’t get that very often but that’s the perfect weather for getting sap”.

With signs that the spring and summer of 2021 could see very challenging market conditions once again for maple syrup producers, both Williams and Cranston say the best thing any maple syrup lover can do is support their local growers.

The Ontario Maple Syrup Association’s website has a provincial map showing all members, and the contact information provided can connect anyone with high-quality local maple syrup instantly.

Cranston says “it’s been a tough couple of years for maple syrup producers. We haven’t been going to the festivals that we usually do, that affects our revenue. Then we have to find other markets for our syrup, so we’re hoping everyone comes out and buys good Ontario maple syrup”.

Williams provides another reason to call and order from local producers, saying “There is some warm weather in the forecast right now, and that is concerning to a lot of us. If we get too many days where the temperature is in double digits, there’s a possibility of the maple syrup season shutting down early”.

Most would surely appreciate the options of “Caramelly-flavoured” and “Creamy, buttery flavoured” compared to no option at all.