Many countries keep strategic reserves of oil to control price volatility or to maintain their national security, but Canada doesn’t have a strategic oil reserve. They instead have a strategic reserve of a commodity that is sweet, is great on pancakes and waffles, and is more expensive than oil. It’s maple syrup.
Canada has a Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve in Laurierville, Quebec, that contains a 267,000 square foot stockpile of 94,000 barrels of maple syrup. The site holds half of the average annual harvest of Quebec maple syrup. The 55 million pounds of sticky goodness is worth more than $130 million. Since 2000, Canada has been holding maple syrup in a strategic reserve spread across three sites in Quebec. It’s considered the largest collection of maple syrup on Earth.
Maple syrup is very important in Canada, and many people, from producers to sellers, rely on it as their primary source of income. The reserve is managed by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, and Quebec is responsible for around 75% of the world’s maple syrup supply. The reason for the strategic reserve is to make sure there is enough supply of syrup at all times to cover the market demand. This controls price volatility and keeps prices stable. It’s also in place because maple syrup production can fluctuate year to year depending on the weather.
Producers sell their maple syrup in bulk to the federation, which sells in bulk to buyers. The federation takes a portion of the syrup during high production years and stores it in the strategic reserve in steel drums. In 2020, the price of Canadian maple syrup was $12.13 CAD per liter ($9.61 USD). Each drum in the strategic reserve holds 585 pounds of syrup. That makes a barrel of maple syrup worth $2,487 CAD ($1,970 USD). By comparison, a barrel of Brent crude is around $70 USD at the time of this writing, making the syrup twenty-eight times more expensive than oil.
The reserves are stored in highly secured areas that have the security of a bank. Motion detectors, surveillance cameras, and alarms secure the highly valuable commodity. The high security is necessary because in 2012, thieves managed to steal 6 million pounds of syrup worth about $18 million.
A surplus of syrup had been stored in a third warehouse, and the thieves managed to rent another portion of the warehouse at the same time. This allowed the thieves to drive trucks in and out of the facility undetected. By the time inspectors checked the barrels, they had found many of them had been emptied or filled with water. Three men were initially arrested while the search continued for more people involved in the syrup theft ring. A total of 17 men were arrested by December 2012 that were related to the theft.