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Maple syrup yields take a hit this year


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Ontario’s liquid gold will be a little more precious this year, after unseasonably warm weather took a toll on maple syrup production in the province.

Local producers experienced the best runs of the season earlier this week, after the mercury dipped below zero last weekend. However, this weekend’s balmy temperatures will likely spell the end of the syrup season in Ontario.

Joel Martin checks out a sample of some of the last syrup of the season, boiled down Wednesday at his dad Fred Martin's farm.
Joel Martin checks out a sample of some of the last syrup of the season, boiled down Wednesday at his dad Fred Martin's farm.

“I think we’re getting the last kick at the can,” Fred Martin, president of the Waterloo-Wellington Maple Syrup Producers Association, said on Tuesday.

Producers were hoping for another year like 2009, when there were record sap flows across the country.

“We did very well in the province last year,” said Heather Kenny, business administrator for the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association.

For a convenient measuring stick, producers peg the average crop at one litre per tap. Last year production in Ontario was 125 to 150 per cent higher. This year, when the last sap is boiled down, producers expect yields will be around 60 to 70 per cent.

The picture is the same in Lanark County in eastern Ontario, the other large syrup-producing area in the province. Dwight James, vice-president of the Lanark and District Maple Syrup Producers Association, said producers are reporting average or below average yields, with the season expected to wrap up Easter weekend.

Todd Leuty, agroforestry specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said sap flows in southern Ontario paused in mid-March after a warm air mass moved into the region. Temperatures stayed above zero for several nights in a row, meaning sap didn’t flow.

Leuty reported that producers in the London-Sarnia area were particularly hard-hit, especially those using bucket collection systems. Syrup makers using buckets reported yields between 20 and 25 per cent of normal, while those using vacuum tubing systems fared a bit better.

Martin noted that the season ended early for producers tapping soft maples. Once the buds begin to grow, the sap gets an off-flavour and can’t be collected for syrup. Soft maples budded out early this year, while hard maples last two or three weeks longer before budding out.

“That’s our only saving grace. Producers with only soft maple are having a terrible season,” Martin said.

The supply of syrup around the globe will depend on production in Quebec, which boils about 80 per cent of the world’s maple syrup. The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers Federation reported earlier this week that the season is essentially finished south of Montreal but sap was still running further north in the province. It’s still too early to estimate the total of the 2010 harvest.

The quality and flavour of the syrup that has been produced in Ontario is good, Martin said. Maple aficionados just might have to hunt a little harder this year to find locally-produced syrup.

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