The sugary-sweet business of maple syrup production may seem totally innocuous to most, but for Canada, the industry is actually under the careful control of a cartel — although the local government won’t call it that — that controls the supply and pricing of syrup for the whole country.
Since 2004, the organization, which one member of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers called “the OPEC of maple syrup,” has the power to decide who gets to produce maple syrup, and how much of it.
And though you might assume that Vermont is the maple syrup capital of the world, Quebec actually produces more than 70 percent of the global supply.
“To keep prices high, the federation enforces strict quotas for the province’s 7,400 producers,” according to The New York Times. “Instead of flooding the market during years with bumper crops, all syrup produced beyond that amount is stored in the federation’s warehouse, which helps prop up prices by limiting supply. When seasons are lean, it releases the syrup, to maintain stable supply and pricing.”
With support from the Quebec government, the federation has only grown in power. Quebec syrup farmers are punished for operating “outside” the cartel’s system, which is what happened to one farmer, Robert Hodge, whose entire annual supply of 20,400 pounds of maple syrup was seized because he was over the annual quota. The supply was worth approximately $46,000.
The federation says that despite the occasional misbehaving farmer, “three-quarters of our members are happy or very happy with what we are doing.” Currently, a barrel of Quebec syrup is worth more than a barrel of crude oil.