Quebec unlocks world's only maple syrup strategic reserve to keep pancake lovers happy

Canada's PM Trudeau and Alibaba founder Ma try a sample of maple syrup the Gateway Conference in Toronto
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alibaba founder Jack Ma try a sample of maple syrup as they tour the marketplace at the Gateway Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Maple syrup producers in the Canadian province of Quebec are releasing more than half of the world's only strategic reserve of the sweet topping to keep up with soaring demand - avoiding a sticky situation for pancake lovers.

Sales of maple syrup have climbed since the pandemic spread last year and led to more people eating at home, according to Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (QMSP), a group that manages the reserve.

Adding to the syrup squeeze, Quebec's harvest this year was the smallest in three years due to unusually warm weather. Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees in eastern North America, when alternating freezing and thawing temperatures in spring cause sap to flow.

Quebec forests generate nearly three-quarters of the world's maple syrup under a quota system that centrally manages supply. So prized is the province's golden syrup that thieves stole C$18 million worth of it from the reserve in 2012.

QMSP said this month it would release more than half of the 100 million pound (45 million kg)reserve by early next year.

"There is no cause for concern: our organization has the tools in place to meet demand," said QMSP President Serge Beaulieu.

The Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve spans 267,000 square feet (24,805 square meters), the equivalent of five football fields, securing syrup in sterilized 45-gallon (170-liter) barrels stacked five-high.

QMSP is also approving 7 million new taps during the next three years, a 14% increase, to bolster production.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Dan Grebler

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Covers energy, agriculture and politics in Western Canada with the energy transition a key area of focus. Has done short reporting stints in Afghanistan, Pakistan, France and Brazil and covered Hurricane Michael in Florida, Tropical Storm Nate in New Orleans and the 2016 Alberta wildfires and the campaign trails of political leaders during two Canadian election campaigns.