Apparently Canada is to maple syrup what Saudi Arabia is to oil in that Canada produces up to 78 percent of the world’s maple syrup. More specifically it’s Canada’s Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ) — a group of 7,300 syrup producers in the region — that make up the cartel.
Is it really necessary to have a maple syrup cartel? Cartels in general are ridiculous because they don’t make way for competition. The FPAQ’s acting general manager Simon Trépanier told The New York Times that the FPAQ is like the OPEC of maple syrup in that “we have he ability to adjust the quantity that is in the marketplace.” Are people going to overdose on the sticky stuff? Honesty, it’s laughable.
But the FPAQ explains — in this paper titled “Farmer Self-Determination for Market Control” — that a cartel is necessary since the conditions to yield an ideal maple syrup production can fluctuate so drastically that without the cartel there wouldn’t be an entity that kept the production at an even level year-to-year. The cartel is also “necessary” because, as the WaPo points out, “During recessions, many families cut way back on syrup purchases, since it’s not exactly essential. (Lately, the syrup industry has responded by expanding to new markets in Japan, China, and South Korea.)”
So why bring this up, you ask? It’s because just last month, four men were arrested in connection with an $18 million maple syrup heist of six million pounds of syrup. The New York Times points out that “Like many thieves, the maple syrup gang was faced with how to unload a large quantity of a commodity that is not easily moved. But unlike most thieves […] they found a way to get full price on the open market.” The thieves sold their loot to maple syrup dealers in New Brunswick, Ontario, and even across the border to U.S. states including Vermont and New Hampshire.
While I don’t condone stealing, I can’t really feel too badly on this one. A cartel by definition is, “An association of manufacturers or suppliers that maintains prices at a high level and restricts competition. Should any entity be trusted when its only purpose is to manipulate?
Maybe this syrup larceny will open the FPAQ’s eyes to being a bit more friendly with the free market?