2021 Maple syrup sector outlook

Mar 09, 2021
Canadian maple syrup production growth has been stellar the last two years, following a very slow 2018. Both Quebecois and Canadian production grew 35% in 2019 year-over-year (YoY). But in 2020, COVID-19 created a forked path within the Canadian sector, much as it has across many agricultural sectors. The big question is whether 2021 holds better days. As temperatures slowly climb, here’s how the country’s year of maple production is shaping up.
Industry at a crossroads
Canada’s 2020 production rose 8.3% YoY, and in Quebec, the world’s largest producing region, production grew 9.8%. Canada’s annual tally of exports of sugar/syrup rose 20% YoY, with a similar pace expected in 2021. Domestic syrup sales have also done well despite the pandemic.
According to Nielsen data, 2020 sales in dollars rose 20.1% YoY and sales in volumes rose 15.2%. Prices saw a small decrease in New Brunswick in 2020 YoY but were stable in Quebec. While COVID-19 has introduced price volatility for many foods, it’s unlikely to impact maple syrup prices this year. It has disrupted consumption patterns of different ingredients, however. Non-sweet condiments (e.g., mustard) rely on foodservice sectors; consumption has therefore declined. But while consumption of sweet condiments has also generally declined due to health-related concerns, maple syrup is an exception.
Restaurants hit hard
North America’s maple syrup consumption patterns during COVID have exposed an industry fault line. Fully one-quarter of Quebec’s 220 sugar shacks/restaurants registered before COVID have had to shut down all operations because of restaurant restrictions. Another 25% have modified their operations to only produce syrup. With Quebec’s current closure orders, continued shuttering of eat-in dining could force others to do so as well. Those who’ve been able to offer take-out meals have managed well, but 2021 may be a year of unprecedented supply-side restructuring in the world’s heart of maple syrup production.
That serious business downturn occurred in a year of near-record production. Although production in Ontario and New Brunswick decreased slightly, 2020 was an excellent year for Quebec with an average 3.59 lbs./tap. That compares to the 5-year average of 3.29. With favourable weather this spring, another good year of production should follow.
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