Last week, thieves stole about $150,000 worth of maple syrup from a storage facility near Montreal’s Trudeau Airport.
Surprisingly, it’s not the first time this has happened.
Quebec, Canada, produces about 75 percent of the world’s maple syrup and has, since 2000, maintained an emergency reserve of syrup — about 46 million pounds worth. Now, that reserve is held in barrels housed across a few different facilities in rural Quebec, and in July 2012, about $18 million worth of the stuff went missing from a warehouse.
Here’s where we dive into the sticky underbelly of the Canadian maple syrup industry: The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers is the marketing organization behind the management of Quebec’s syrup. They run the stockpile, set quotas for producers, and crucially, rent the warehouses where it’s all stored.
That last part is how thieves were able to make off with so much syrup in 2012: Canadian police say the thieves rented a portion of a storage warehouse used to house syrup and were able to gradually make off with their haul — six million pounds worth — over a period of time.
Eventually, 26 individuals were arrested in a case that took on strange overtones of underclass rage — some outlets pointed out the unfairness of the Federation’s byzantine quota system and singular control of the market — and two pled guilty.
The money from that theft was never recovered, which points to another wrinkle in the syrup-theft industry: The difficulty of unloading your product. Some of the 2012 haul went to New Brunswick, some to Vermont, and last week’s theft was believed to be destined for Japan.
And while a Federation spokeswoman says that thefts like this are rare, with maple syrup hovering at over 20 times the price of oil, it’s not hard to see the appeal of a good heist.