Syrup Smugglers Take on the Maple Mafia
O Canada – the land of moose and snow, where the drugs are cheap, the people are notoriously nice, and the maple syrup farmers are clapped in irons.
Apparently it is unacceptable for a person to take something from a tree – A. Tree. – put it in a bucket, turn it into magic-tasting sugar, and give it to someone else in exchange for monies, without a government-mandated middle man swooping in on a snowmobile to take most of the sugar, some of the monies, and all of the credit.
A Membership You Can't Refuse
The maple syrup farmers of Québec have been saddled with compulsory membershipto the Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ, according to the native French abbreviation) since 1990. The Federation holds monopoly rights over all maple syrup produced in the province, controlling wholesale distribution and prices. Anyone who dares to sell more than five litres of their boiled tree sap on their own farm or to local grocery stores faces a prison sentence and a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The problem isn’t even that Quebecois farmers are forced to choose between different Syrupy Overlords. There is only one, and everyone has to join – or else.
The syrup farmers’ protest is worthy of a cloak-and-dagger spy movie – directed by Mel Brooks.
Angele Grenier and her husband, decades-long syrup farmers, have been smuggling their contraband syrup to the neighboring province of New Brunswick. In the dark of the night, they load barrels onto trucks and sneak across the province border to market freedom. For this terrible black market act of choosing their own customers and prices, Angele is one of Canada’s most wanted women.
She has appealed the charges brought against her by the FPAQ, and her case is being taken up by the Supreme Court. Angele started a fundraising campaign just last week to help pay for her court costs so she can continue to fight for the right to export her product as she chooses, and to give her children and other farmers “maple freedom.”
Anything but the Maple
As a New Englander, I feel very strongly about maple syrup. Breakfast and the entire season of winter... and spring... and autumn... are intrinsically connected to maple syrup in my mind. (Have you ever dipped your bacon in syrup? There’s no turning back.) When we visited the sugar shacks in the mountain woods, it never occurred to me that the farmers, whether there or in Canada, would ever not be in charge of their own business.
In Montréal they had the most wonderful maple inventions – hard maple candies that looked like maple leaves, soft maple sugar molded into a myriad of shapes, even maple syrup ice cream. My ten-year old self would have nearly cried at the thought of all those things being snatched away from my mouth by a “mafia,” as Angele calls the FPAQ. I probably still would.
It’s easy to take the free market for granted. But once there’s a Maple Syrup Federation, what’s next? A Men’s Club for Cheese? The People’s Organization for Doughnuts? The Federal Bureau for Coffee? What would life be like with all of these things suddenly federally limited to a sole distributer, on pain of economic death?
So for all the people thinking of moving to Canada if Trump or Clinton – depending on your opinion – wins the election: do your market research first. And beware the Maple Mafia.
This first appeared at FEE.