NEWS

Maple syrup battle brews in Quebec as market share slips

04/07/2015 08:29 EDT | Updated 06/07/2015 05:59 EDT
A sticky situation involving Quebec maple syrup producers and their own federation appears to be heading to a higher court.

The province has been the world's leading producer of maple syrup, with an 80 per cent share of the global market.

But that figure has dropped to 72 per cent, with U.S. producers gaining at Quebec's expense.

Quebec maple syrup producers like Steve Côté blame the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.

Côté said he's not allowed to export the barrels of maple syrup he produced.

"They say it's theirs, I say it's mine," said Côté, who has been locked in a three-year battle with the federation.

Quebec producers are required to go through the federation to export their product.

The agency will even send security guards to visit producers who don't co-operate and seize their syrup.

"In 2013, they seized the whole crop and the season was almost over, so they got almost everything," Côté said.

Robert Hodge, a producer who has been in the business for 50 years, says the federation is placing too many restrictions on Quebec producers compared with those elsewhere.

"The United States is going to keeping tapping more, New Brunswick is going to tap more and every time they make one barrel of syrup, that's one less that we can sell," Hodge said.

Hodge and Côté have been in court for years, trying to fight for the right to sell their syrup to whomever they please.

Last September, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled on the matter and sided with the province, saying Quebec had a right to control out-of-province sales of its maple syrup. 

'Not a monopoly'

The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers says the group's rules help to stabilize the prices of maple syrup.

"People think the federation is a big monopoly. It's not," said Paul Rouillard, the federation's deputy director.

Rouillard said the regulations in Quebec guarantee buyers a steady supply — even during slow seasons — which ensures the syrup market won't crash like it did a decade ago.

He said Côté should play by the rules.

"He benefited [from] the elevation of the price of the syrup the last 10 years."

Côté said he won't stop fighting and has requested his case be appealed.

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