The culinary equivalent of hockey in Canada is maple syrup. We're passionate about it, grow up with it, make it in our own backyards, and we have built a profitable industry based around it. The province of Quebec alone produces nearly 80% of the worlds supply.
With maple syrup being such a delicious and well-marketed commodity, it's no wonder the province of Quebec threw off its gloves and put up a fight when it was discovered a substantial portion of it had gone missing - a whopping 6 million pounds of it. Officers from the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement helped Quebec police in the investigation of the missing syrup. As details were released, the theft put a spotlight on the dark side of the maple syrup industry.
The Great Maple Syrup Heist
In August 2012 it became public knowledge that approximately 18 million dollars worth of syrup was stolen over the course of a year from the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve near Quebec City. As much as I wondered how could thieves steal that much syrup without being detected, I was more surprised Quebec even had a strategic reserve. Created in part to keep the price of syrup at a set level, the reserve also serves the purpose of ensuring a steady global supply of syrup in the case of a bad season. Syrup producers are strictly regulated on what and how much syrup they can sell - and at what price. If the reserve sounds similar to a cartel or you just pictured Quebec to be the Saudi Arabia of the maple syrup world - you're not alone in that thinking. It's these types of restrictions and suppressions (while the rest of the syrup world operates as a free market) that are thought to lead to black-market sales and smuggling.
In December 2012 it was reported that 18 arrests had been made relating to the theft of the 10,000 barrels of syrup (23 arrests as of Feb. 13, 2013). Although it is suspected much of the syrup ended up in New Brunswick (then sold to a Vermont packer), the investigation into the heist is still ongoing. Since the syrup was siphoned from the reserve's labeled barrels then into the thief's own barrels when it was stolen and transported, any traceability of the product is virtually impossible.
Here in Ontario we have an open market for delicious maple syrup. Not only does competition ensure the quality will remain high, it means we get to support our local farmers directly at a fair price for all of us.
Black Molasses & Ginger Cake with Maple Icing - Recipe
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c brown sugar
1 c black molasses
1 T finely grated fresh ginger root
1 c boiling water
2 t baking soda
2 1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour
2 t each ground ginger and ground cinnamon
1/2 t each ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and kosher salt
2 t baking powder
1/4 c maple syrup
1 c powdered sugar
Maple Syrup Heist Links
Why Does Canada Have a Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve? - The Atlantic
Vermont firm implicated in $20-million maple syrup heist from Quebec warehouse - Montreal Gazette
The Maple Syrup Cartel: Quebec’s syrup monopoly helped spawn smuggling, prohibition style - The National Post
In $18 Miliion Theft, Victim was Canadian Maple Syrup Cartel - New York Times
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