That Canadian Maple Syrup Heist Is a Serious Crime

Adam Martin
That Canadian Maple Syrup Heist Is a Serious Crime

If you can get past the novelty of the fact that Canada has strategic maple syrup reserve, and the "sticky fingers" jokes leading every single news story about it, the heist in which $30 million of maple syrup was stolen from a warehouse is actually pretty serious.

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For one thing it was a major undertaking, requiring the transport of 10 million pounds of syrup, which the thieves actually removed from the barrels in which it was being stored. The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, which discovered the warehouse full of empty barrels last week in St-Louis-de-Blandford (they initially kept the crime quiet), didn't specify the volume, but at 11 pounds per gallon, that comes to 909,091 gallons, or 15,000 barrels, as the The Wall Street Journal's David George-Cosh worked out. That's a huge amount of liquid to transport and store illicitly.

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For another thing, maple syrup is actually a pretty important part of the Canadian economy, and the loss of this much will have an effect. As George-Cosh explains:

While strategic reserves are typically linked to oil and other industry-sensitive commodities, Quebec has kept a vast store of maple syrup since 2000 to be used if supply of the quintessential Canadian staple falls with poor yields, or higher-than-expected demand.

"Prior to the theft, the federation had accumulated 37 million pounds of maple syrup in its reserves," Cosh reported, so the loss of 10 million is a significant loss.

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According to the USDA, the price per gallon of maple syrup has climbed steadily over the last three years, coming in at $35.46 per gallon in 2011. Canada supplies about 75 percent of the world's maple syrup, and it's been working on expanding the market for this key commodity. The theft will hurt that effort, University of Guelph professor Sylvain Charlebois explained to The Globe and Mail's Kim Mackarael and Rita Trichur

The federation has been working particularly hard to build a market for the product in Asia, where it’s less well known. “If they’re not concerned, they should be,” he said of the federation. “This is such a fragile industry, and any loss on the supply side could be devastating.”

It's not like the stolen syrup has a serial number, so if the thieves can figure out how to unload it, presumably it will be very hard to catch them.