$18 Million Worth of Everyone’s Favorite Breakfast Condiment- STOLEN

The dark undertones that flavor the Canadian maple syrup industry

$18 Million Worth of Everyone’s Favorite Breakfast Condiment- STOLEN

Claire McNeary

Whether you enjoy it drizzled on your morning oatmeal or drenching your fat stack of silver-dollar pancakes, every breakfast enthusiast can’t savor the most important meal of the day without a generous helping of maple syrup.

Just imagining rolling up to Louie’s to enjoy a relaxing meal, only to discover that the most dependable aspect of breakfast– maple syrup — is missing.

This horror story was the unfortunate reality of Michel Gauvreau, a worker for the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ), who, while taking routine inventory at a Quebec Maple Syrup storage warehouse, discovered that 540,000 gallons of syrup had been stolen. In order to fully comprehend the magnitude of this heist, those who aren’t experts on the economics behind maple syrup must understand the following figure: one barrel of maple syrup currently sells for $1,300 a barrel (26 times more expensive than crude oil). This means that the 540,000 gallons of stolen syrup equates to a whopping $18 million dollars of lost property.

Since Canadians obviously take their maple syrup very seriously, the authorities were immediately called, and a full investigation was conducted to find the perpetrators. 300 people, mostly those heavily involved in the maple syrup industry, were called in for questioning, and 40 search warrants were issued track down evidence. The result of this glorious display of Canadian law enforcement? Justice prevailed, as the four leaders of the syrup caper (Richard Vallieres, Raymond Vallieres, Etienne St-Pierre and Jean Lord) were promptly arrested, and 3 of the men were declared guilty last month. Most importantly, all of the stolen maple syrup was recovered and returned to its rightful owner, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. Interestingly enough, much of the syrup was discovered in the factory of the Vermont candy-maker, who claimed he had no idea that the stashed syrup was stolen.

So now that we’ve covered the events following the maple syrup heist, it’s time to delve into the most important question: why steal maple syrup? Are Canadians suddenly losing their morality and resorting to thievery instead? Or are the men responsible for the crime just extreme lovers of maple syrup? Well, like every high-profile crime, the answer is not so simple.

The primary goal of the thieves was to make a high profit selling the illegal syrup to the unsuspecting public. The fact that maple syrup is a fungible commodity (meaning you cannot tell where it comes from when purchased) only made it easier for the ringleaders to carry out their evil intentions. Not only is maple syrup a highly sought after commodity, but the strict regulation of the industry by the FPAQ also opened up the maple syrup black market. The FPAQ produces 72% of the world’s maple syrup, meaning they basically monopolize the industry and control international syrup prices. Individual maple syrup producers in Canada rarely survive because the FPAQ is usually successful in buying out all  of the competition. The hostile environment surrounding the Canadian maple syrup industry undoubtedly prompted the thieves to carry out their aberrational crimes.