Last August, Canadian authorities discovered that more than 10 million pounds of maple syrup had gone missing from a Quebec warehouse. The syrup theft was valued at over $30 million dollars, and represented a full quarter of the provincial maple syrup reserves.
New leads on massive maple syrup theft
A quarter of Quebec's strategic maple syrup reserves stolen
One of the strangest things to come to light in the wake of this story is the fact that Canada maintains a strategic maple syrup reserve. All countries maintain some sort of strategic reserve, of course. For most countries, the reserve will be warehoused supplies of fuel or basic foodstuffs like grain. But many non-Canadians were surprised to learn that since 2000, Quebec has been maintaining a vast hoard of maple syrup.
Maple syrup is considered a quaint (though delicious) industry in America. But in Canada, maple syrup is big business, comparable to any other form of agricultural production. Canada has been the world leader in maple syrup production for the last 80 years, and Quebec alone provides 75 percent of the world's supply of syrup.
Quebec's syrup reserve serves as a buffer against bad syrup years. You can't predict the weather, and some years the trees just don't give much sap. Luckily, syrup stores well, so the province can store away surplus syrup in good years, and deploy it on the market in bad years, thus ensuring a steady economic base.
It's no surprise, then, that the RCMP took this theft extremely seriously. And over a month later, they finally tracked down the goods.
The thieves delayed discovery of the theft by removing the syrup from the barrels, leaving behind a warehouse full of empty syrup barrels. To a quick visual inspection, everything was fine. This clever ruse no doubt bought them some time to fence the stolen syrup, but not enough: 400,000 pounds of the stolen syrup was recovered from an export business in New Brunswick.
The exporters, naturally, claim that they bought the syrup unaware of its illegal provenance. S.K. Export has turned over the name of their regular suppliers, who they claim are the ones really responsible for buying the hot syrup.
The recovered syrup was whisked back to Quebec under police escort. 16 trailer loads of syrup "accompanied by a squad of provincial police cars" must have, to the RCMP, seemed like too rich a target for highway thieves. And how heartbreaking it would have been, to recover some of the stolen syrup only to lose it all over again.