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posted by cmn32480 on Friday December 11 2015, @09:01AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the sticky-situation dept.

The BBC reports that one Canadian, Angele Grenier, is fighting back against the maple syrup monopoly granted to the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ), which controls 77% of the world's maple syrup supply:

The problem for Mrs Grenier, and Quebec's other so-called "maple syrup rebels", is that they cannot freely sell their syrup. Instead, since 1990 they have been legally required to hand over the bulk of what they produce to the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (which in French-speaking Quebec is abbreviated to FPAQ).

Backed by the Canadian civil courts, the federation has the monopoly for selling Quebecois maple syrup on the wholesale market, and for exporting it outside the province. It sets the price for how much it pays producers, and it charges them a 12% fee per pound of syrup. Producers are only allowed to sell independently a very small amount of syrup, to visitors to their farm, or to their local supermarket. And then they still have to pay the 12% commission to the FPAQ.

"We don't own our syrup any more," says Mrs Grenier, who calls the federation the "mafia". Unwilling to put up with this state of affairs, Mrs Grenier and her husband have in recent years been selling their maple syrup across the border in the neighbouring Canadian province of New Brunswick. In scenes that could come from a Hollywood drugs movie, they load barrels of syrup on to a truck as quickly as possible, and then race it over the border line under the cover of darkness. The couple are breaking the law, but say they are fighting for the right to sell their syrup for a price - and to customers - of their own choosing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the FPAQ has taken a very dim view.

[More After the Break]

FPAQ security staff and police officers have paid her a number of visits, and Mrs Grenier is facing prison if she continues to refuse to turn over her syrup. The federation has also hit her with a 500,000 Canadian dollars fine, which she is now contesting, as she says she won't back down. "We want our freedom back," says Mrs Grenier.

Paul Roullard, the FPAQ's deputy director, defends the federation's actions. He says: "People who say that our practices are totalitarian should go see what happens in China, North Korea, or Africa." Mr Roullard is also quick to point out that the FPAQ didn't unilaterally award itself its powers, rather that they were agreed by "100% of the delegates who represent Quebec's producers, when we voted them [in]". Back in 1990 when the federation got the first of its far-reaching powers, Quebec's maple syrup producers supported the move because then prices were low, at roughly $1 per pound. In return the FPAQ promised to market the syrup better, and set prices with authorised buyers. And in this it succeeded, with demand and prices starting to rise to today's $2 per pound levels.

[...] Yet the rebels continue to complain about what they see as the federation's heavy-handed tactics, such as Daniel Gaudreau, a producer from Scotstown in southern Quebec. He says that in 2014 the FPAQ accused him of selling more than his allotted quota, and so seized his entire production. This year, he says, the federation even posted private guards on his property, and is now suing him for more than 225,000 Canadian dollars. Mr Gaudreau says: "The situation is completely ridiculous. Only a few of us dare to fight the federation because it built a system based on fear, and it has much bigger financial resources than us."


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  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday December 11 2015, @09:31AM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 11 2015, @09:31AM (#274896) Journal
    Nothing new in principle... pretty much like the US govt - seemed like a good idea at the time, but reeks nowadays.
    The syrup mafia evolved much quicker, though.
    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by GlennC on Friday December 11 2015, @02:21PM

      by GlennC (3656) on Friday December 11 2015, @02:21PM (#274969)

      The syrup mafia evolved much quicker, though.

      This should be unacceptable to all Right-Thinking 'Murricuns....we can't have dem Canucks setting up government cartels faster and better than us!

      [sarcasm EOF]

      --
      Sorry folks...the world is bigger and more varied than you want it to be. Deal with it.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11 2015, @09:38AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11 2015, @09:38AM (#274897)

    Damn you Maquis rebels! You've been told replicated syrup is good enough! Cease trading with the Ferengi at once!

  • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Friday December 11 2015, @11:21AM

    by Dunbal (3515) on Friday December 11 2015, @11:21AM (#274923)

    Mr. Walter White, well he makes meth in a secret location and sells it too. He's breaking the law, but he is also fighting for the right to sell his meth for a price - and to customers - of his own choosing.

    Seriously, get the law changed or move out of Quebec. Even if the law is stupid and wrong, it's the law. Until then you're just a criminal.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MadTinfoilHatter on Friday December 11 2015, @12:31PM

      by MadTinfoilHatter (4635) on Friday December 11 2015, @12:31PM (#274935)

      Seriously, get the law changed or move out of Quebec. Even if the law is stupid and wrong, it's the law. Until then you're just a criminal.

      -1 Disagree. Civil disobedience is an important part of getting the law changed - especially if a law is stupid and wrong.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11 2015, @03:45PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11 2015, @03:45PM (#274999)

        This wouldn't happen in the US. We have guns.

        STOOOPID NOOCKS.

        • (Score: 1) by Osamabobama on Friday December 11 2015, @04:40PM

          by Osamabobama (5842) on Friday December 11 2015, @04:40PM (#275018)

          ...in the US. We have guns.

          ...so the situation would turn violent much sooner. The side with the law would then bring more guns than the smugglers could muster.

          --
          Appended to the end of comments you post. Max: 120 chars.
      • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Friday December 11 2015, @04:39PM

        by Dunbal (3515) on Friday December 11 2015, @04:39PM (#275017)

        That's just a clever way of justifying law breaking. If I'm a maple syrup producer and comply with the law, I'm not going to be happy at all at someone who rakes in extra profits by breaking the law, and even less happy if the authority that is imposing a monopoly on me just turns a blind eye to them. Why do I get punished for being a law abiding citizen? Now if the "civil disobedient" person would say donate all additional proceeds to a lobby organization to get the law changed, I could live with that. I'm pretty sure that's not what happens though. It's FUCK YOU, SUCKER! I'm a special snowflake and laws don't apply to me!

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11 2015, @05:11PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11 2015, @05:11PM (#275031)

          You could do the same thing. It's your own choice.

          Break the law, take a risk, make a profit.
          Comply with the law. Pay the monopoly, get screwed.

          I mean, you are happy to pay and fund those monopoly guys. ie losing some of your real profit. But then complain that some other guys make some extra money you don't have anything to do with?(Well one could claim they could "steal" market shares, and hypotetical future profit.)

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by khallow on Friday December 11 2015, @05:34PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 11 2015, @05:34PM (#275050) Journal

          Why do I get punished for being a law abiding citizen?

          You waive your right to fairness when you're a chump, idiot, or coward.

          • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12 2015, @02:36AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12 2015, @02:36AM (#275271)

            so when I break into your house and steal your shit i'll leave a note claiming civil disobedience but that's ok buy yourself another tv chump I'm the hero of this story

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday December 12 2015, @05:24PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 12 2015, @05:24PM (#275451) Journal

              so when I break into your house and steal your shit i'll leave a note claiming civil disobedience but that's ok buy yourself another tv chump I'm the hero of this story

              Because that is equivalent to breaking really bad laws as a form of civil disobedience.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by melikamp on Friday December 11 2015, @06:50PM

          by melikamp (1886) on Friday December 11 2015, @06:50PM (#275094) Journal
          But you can't take your argument all the way. Sooner or later you will run up against a law so unjust that disobedience would make one a hero of the people. Of course, you could stand by your position anyway, even for laws such as slavery, but I don't suppose you want to go that far? Anyway, why do you get punished for being a law abiding citizen? I dunno, but we have to make it clear you are not punished by bootleggers. You AND your customers are being punished by the monopolist and the oppressive state, whereas the bootleggers refuse to be punished by them. So direct your angst accordingly.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:17PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13 2015, @07:17PM (#275825)

          "I'm not going to be happy at all at someone who rakes in extra profits by breaking the law"

          What about the monopolists that rake in extra profits because they bought politicians and therefore have a monopoly? Are you going to be happy with them? Why should they be the only ones with a monopoly because they bought the politicians? That's what's not fair here.

          Your anger should be rightfully directed toward them.

      • (Score: 2) by Non Sequor on Friday December 11 2015, @10:18PM

        by Non Sequor (1005) on Friday December 11 2015, @10:18PM (#275183) Journal

        Part of having a society is that crying out "fiat justitia ruat caelum" and doing your own thing can't be taken lightly. To a certain extent you're stuck following other people's dumb ideas. Keep in mind they think your ideas are dumb too and the truth is you're probably both right.

        It's a fairly common phenomenon for prized agricultural exports to be saddled with heavy handed policies. People disagree on how they should be managed as a cultural and economic asset for a region and the results may very well be perverse at times.

        --
        Write your congressman. Tell him he sucks.
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Gravis on Friday December 11 2015, @11:37AM

    by Gravis (4596) on Friday December 11 2015, @11:37AM (#274927)

    the cutest mafia around since the Handicapped Mafia.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Friday December 11 2015, @01:58PM

    by sjames (2882) on Friday December 11 2015, @01:58PM (#274964) Journal

    When your best defense is that you're not as bad as North Korea, you have some real issues.

  • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Friday December 11 2015, @02:06PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Friday December 11 2015, @02:06PM (#274966)

    Start buying your syrup (assuming you use the real stuff) from northern New England instead. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine all make a lot of syrup.

    --
    The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by quacking duck on Friday December 11 2015, @03:24PM

      by quacking duck (1395) on Friday December 11 2015, @03:24PM (#274991)

      As the story notes though, nowhere near as much as Quebec, which produces 77% of the world's supply.

      We even have a maple syrup strategic reserve. I kid you not. It was big news up here a few years ago when millions of litres of syrup, worth $18 million, went missing [globalnews.ca] from the reserve. Funny to read, but the authorities took the matter very seriously and 26 were arrested.

      • (Score: 2) by DutchUncle on Friday December 11 2015, @03:45PM

        by DutchUncle (5370) on Friday December 11 2015, @03:45PM (#275000)

        "Smuggling syrup" is funny. Stealing a truckload of syrup is sort of funny. $18 million, involving an ongoing multi-truck operation, is serious business. And replacing good maple syrup with WATER is heinous.

    • (Score: 2) by arulatas on Friday December 11 2015, @04:26PM

      by arulatas (3600) on Friday December 11 2015, @04:26PM (#275012)

      Or make your own. It isn't that hard.

      --
      ----- 10 turns around
      • (Score: 2) by quacking duck on Friday December 11 2015, @08:55PM

        by quacking duck (1395) on Friday December 11 2015, @08:55PM (#275144)

        Or make your own. It isn't that hard.

        Assuming you mean *maple* syrup, and not just cheap table syrup.... then yes, it is that hard.

        Your average person doesn't have a forest of mature maple trees, in a climate that gets sufficiently cold in winter. 1 unit of syrup requires maybe 40 units of collected sap to produce.

        • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Saturday December 12 2015, @12:03AM

          by Thexalon (636) on Saturday December 12 2015, @12:03AM (#275231)

          1 unit of syrup requires maybe 40 units of collected sap to produce.

          I grew up in syruping country - the ratio they were telling us was 63 to 1 to get a nice dark amber.

          --
          The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
          • (Score: 2) by quacking duck on Sunday December 13 2015, @06:14PM

            by quacking duck (1395) on Sunday December 13 2015, @06:14PM (#275812)

            Fair enough; I'm basing my info on Google, and one site indicated it also depends on the sugar concentration in the sap, which can vary. 40:1 was the example one site gave for a sugar concentration of 2%, no idea what the resulting grade was.

        • (Score: 2) by arulatas on Monday December 14 2015, @03:51PM

          by arulatas (3600) on Monday December 14 2015, @03:51PM (#276137)

          Some of us do have that.

          --
          ----- 10 turns around
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Osamabobama on Friday December 11 2015, @05:05PM

    by Osamabobama (5842) on Friday December 11 2015, @05:05PM (#275026)

    Isn't this the type of problem that a futures market is good at solving? At least the problem of low-yield years would benefit from futures speculators.

    The problem of production limits to prop up prices sounds like OPEC's playbook, but syrup and oil are quite different markets. The maple syrup market is ripe for expansion from advertising to drive up demand, whereas oil is priced based on overall energy demand worldwide.

    How do the various wine regions handle production controls? Maple syrup marketed like Champagne could offer another possible solution. There would probably be a loss of power for the FPAQ, though, for any change, so change will be fiercely resisted.

    --
    Appended to the end of comments you post. Max: 120 chars.
    • (Score: 2) by quacking duck on Friday December 11 2015, @09:03PM

      by quacking duck (1395) on Friday December 11 2015, @09:03PM (#275148)

      Canada's maple syrup strategic reserve was created precisely to protect producers from low-yield years and prevents wild, speculative price swings. Or at least that's what the PR says.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11 2015, @06:50PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11 2015, @06:50PM (#275092)

    Mr Roullard is also quick to point out that the FPAQ didn't unilaterally award itself its powers, rather that they were agreed by "100% of the delegates who represent Quebec's producers, when we voted them [in]".

    So the monopoly is not illegal nor communism, merely crony-capitalism*, so that makes it "right".

    * which is bribery-based socialism
     

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12 2015, @04:38AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12 2015, @04:38AM (#275305)

    Perhaps there's a loophole such as the monopoly only covering maple syrup, not maple sap nor maple sugar.