A global meltdown in the maple syrup market

Every now and then, a story comes up on the Telegraph’s foreign newswires that cries out to be turned into a quirky movie. This week’s winner, by a country mile, is the story of how $20 million worth of maple syrup has been stolen from a warehouse in Canada. According to the Wall Street Journal (and numerous other papers that cannot resist the “sticky situation/plot thickens” headlines), it went missing from a warehouse used by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers back in late August.

Cops have now recovered about $1.4 million worth of the missing product in a warehouse north of Quebec, and are hot on the tail of the rest. One can’t help wondering if, somewhere in the Canadian outback, there is some remote little town where it has turned up, and whose residents are now undergoing a “Maple Syrup Galore” scenario. The Coen Brothers should be heading there straightaway.

What is truly remarkable, though, is what we learn from this story about the world of maple syrup production (an issue I know you’ve all been following closely). For one thing, the WSJ reports that the warehouse where it was stolen from is part of the maple syrup “strategic reserve”, built up over several years “to insulate producers from fluctuating global supply and demand”. Who would have thought maple syrup was important enough to warrant its own equivalent of a federal bank? And does this mean that the theft is the breakfast syrup equivalent of robbing Fort Knox?

What is more, what kind of criminal organisation can get rid of this amount of stolen product? I’ve heard of “fences” melting down stolen bars of gold, but what would they do with a hundred-odd cargo trucks of maple syrup? Especially when it’s melted already? Are Canadian citizens being offered cut price maple syrup in bars and pubs, or at car boot sales? And given that most people only go through a bottle or so every few months, would it really be worth risking arrest to buy one?

Finally, witness the intriguing statement from Anne-Marie Granger Godbout, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers’  executive director. She says that rather than being the work of a gang of amateurs who didn’t know what they were stealing,  a “network” of criminals is probably involved. Does this mean that there professional maple syrup thieves out there, in the same way as there are jewel thieves and art thieves? Could there also be tomato ketchup thieves, mustard thieves, and so on?

All these issues must now be got to the bottom of (although I suspect the answers may be far more mundane than the questions) and I have no doubt that the Canadian Mounties will get their man eventually. Just watch out for stains, though, on those nice red uniforms.


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