The Gleaner
Agriculture

Maple syrup: slow start leads to poor yields

It’s well-known that Quebecers are constantly talking about the weather. This is normal when you live in a province with four seasons, each with its own climatic hazards. The warm spring has Quebec maple syrup producers talking, as their production was dramatically reduced at the start of the season.

For maple syrup producers, good spring frosts are necessary for the sap to flow. Most years, there is a “pre-season run,” with an early flow in February. According to René Dulude, “There was none this year.” This season marked his 33rd spring as a forestry engineer in the Montérégie-Ouest. He notes that while the last three years were exceptionally good, with record yields last year, we are experiencing an especially bad year now.

Serge Beaulieu, a maple syrup producer from Ormstown and President of the Producteurs et Productrices Acéricoles du Québec (PPAQ), spoke about the difficulties facing producers this spring during a telephone conversation on March 26. He explained that the warm weather had reduced the amount of sap being harvested by vacuum system (vacuum and tubing), while nothing at all had flowed for those using buckets over the three days prior. When you have 30,000 taps like Beaulieu, you end up boiling something; however, the warm temperatures have meant darker syrup was produced earlier than usual, though it doesn’t contain off-flavours.

Nights dropped below zero again at the end of the month, leaving producers with a slight possibility of increasing their harvest beyond 2 lbs per tap – a last dash before the temperatures climb again and force the trees into bud. The annual average is around 5 lbs per tap.

By March 30, the trucks were hauling sap and steam was pouring out of the sugar shacks. With final boil days added to the tally, a more complete assessment of the 2021 sugar season will follow in the next edition of The Gleaner.

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