WATCH ABOVE: A preview for 16×9’s “The Sweetest Heist.”
Quebec’s great maple syrup heist of 2012 revealed more than just the inner workings of an alleged sophisticated criminal network; it showed there was an appetite for millions of dollars worth of contraband syrup.
According to police documents, most of the stolen syrup found its way on to the black market. That black market is fueled by producers and buyers who are enraged at how the industry is regulated in Quebec.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ) is an organization that, by law, strictly controls all maple syrup sold wholesale in Quebec. When a producer sells through the Federation they are paid 75 per cent of the value of that syrup up front, with the remainder coming in installments. That remaining payment is based on how much of the communal provincial crop is sold. Sometimes being paid in full can take years.
The Federation also sets quotas on the amount of maple syrup produced each year. Every producer is given an allotment. The goal is to keep the price and the amount of maple syrup, stable.
However, marketing experts describe the Federation as a legal cartel, that has created the perfect conditions for a thriving black market. Etienne St-Pierre is a maple syrup buyer who lives an hour across the Quebec border in Kedgwick, New Brunswick. He estimates 40 producers from Quebec sell to him in defiance of the Federation’s rules.
The Federation has been pursuing St-Pierre for years. It’s sent undercover agents to try to prove he’s buying Quebec syrup and has tried to bring him in front of its agricultural tribunal. St-Pierre says the Federation is reaching beyond its jurisdiction, “They want to take control of all of Canada for the maple syrup”.
The black market of maple syrup extends into the United States. Colin Christie is an independent maple syrup buyer in Vermont who says it doesn’t make economic sense for producers to turn off their taps once they’ve reached their quota.
WATCH BELOW: An extended interview with Colin Christie
While the Federation claims the black market makes up no more than 8 per cent of the maple syrup industry producers 16×9 spoke with estimate over 90 per cent of producers sell outside their quota.
If it’s any gauge of the friction within the industry, the tribunal which governs agricultural matters in Quebec had more demands for maple syrup investigations last year than all of the other agricultural sectors combined.
16×9’s “The Sweetest Heist” airs this Saturday at 7 p.m.