TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian police may have caught a break in the sweetest crime of the year, seizing thousands of gallons of maple syrup from an exporter on suspicions that it was part of a cache of syrup that went missing from a Quebec warehouse in late August.
Quebec provincial police removed about 1,000 barrels, or 600,000 pounds, of maple syrup from S.K. Export Inc's storage facility in Kedgwick in the neighboring province of New Brunswick, according to the company's owner, Etienne St-Pierre.
St-Pierre said on Wednesday police told him that the syrup was linked with the headline-grabbing heist in late August in which thieves allegedly siphoned off a reservoir of syrup from barrels stored in a rural warehouse owned by a producer cooperative.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers warehouse, located some 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of Montreal, held about 10 million pounds of maple syrup, worth more than C$30 million ($30.37 million).
It remains unclear exactly how much syrup was taken in the robbery, though a representative of the federation called the loss significant at the time.
St-Pierre, whose company exports Canadian maple syrup products to customers in Europe, Asia and the United States, said he obtains his syrup directly from producers.
He said he had received the syrup that police seized from the same sources he uses every year and does not believe it was part of the missing bounty.
"I think the federation is a cartel," he said, adding that the industry group has been trying for years to get information from him on his suppliers and customers.
A representative of the federation, which maintains a "strategic reserve" stockpile of syrup, was not immediately available for comment.
The disappearance of the syrup is still under investigation and police have approached some producers and industry players to take lie-detector tests, a lawyer representing maple syrup distributors told Reuters.
"There's no proof at this point," the lawyer, Sarto Landry, said. "Syrup can't be tracked like a car."
The province of Quebec produces about 75 percent of the world's maple syrup, and the 2012 harvest is expected to exceed 96 million pounds.
($1 = 0.9880 Canadian dollars)
(Editing by Frank McGurty)