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Canada's "Syrup Mafia" Faces Resistance

Accepted submission by takyon at 2015-12-10 14:06:45

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.


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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