maple syrup has reached $60 a gallon. should be interesting to see how this affects vermont's economy if demand goes down due to higher prices.
Producers worry rising price of maple syrup will sap demand
By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff | March 31, 2008
Attention, pancake lovers!
The price of light sweet amber is going up, hitting New England consumers where it hurts - the breakfast table. Maple syrup has skyrocketed to record prices of up to $60 a gallon, raising fears that the sticky staple of morning fare could become a treat too expensive for the workaday fan of flapjacks and French toast.
The reason: The price of light sweet crude - petroleum - is rising, forcing sugarhouses to spend more to turn sap into syrup.
Average syrup prices are up from about $45 per gallon last year, meaning that a typical pint jug will retail for about $8.50, up from $7 last year. That has prompted producers to speak in apocalyptic terms about the future of this quintessential embellishment of the New England breakfast.
"The day of the $50-a-gallon maple syrup is upon us," said Tom McCrumm, coordinator of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, which represents the state's maple business and generated $2 million in sales last year.
Patti Fuller, owner of Fuller's Sugarhouse in Franklin, N.H., said she reluctantly raised the price of a gallon of her syrup from $42 last year to $50 this year. She had no choice because of the increased cost of oil to power the machinery that boils the sap into syrup. The cost of plastic tubing and jugs has risen as well, she said, because they are also petroleum products.
"You're wondering how far up in price can I go before people say to themselves, 'I really don't have to have that. I can use something else,' " said Fuller, who produces 4,000 gallons of maple syrup a year. "We have to make enough to cover our expenses, but we don't want to price out our customers. It's a very difficult situation for us."
Restaurant owners are also worried.
"We're bracing ourselves," said Daryl Levy, owner of Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, which she said buys "mega" gallons a year from a sugarhouse in Putney, Vt. "We have great flapjacks, and as long as they keep selling well, we'll try to absorb any small increase and deal with it when it happens."
Producers said global demand for New England maple syrup is at an all-time high, which further drives up the price.
"It's really a global market now," said Lorraine Merrill, New Hampshire commissioner of agriculture. "Maple syrup - genuine, real maple syrup - is a North American product, native to southeastern Canada and the Northeast, that the rest of the world has discovered. So there's now demand that's not just out of the West Coast of the United States, but places like Europe and Asia have developed a sweet tooth for real maple syrup."
Producers said that prices remained low for years because Quebec, which produces three-fourths of the world's maple syrup, made more than it sold. But as global demand has risen, lapping up Quebec's reserves, local producers have endured two winters of unseasonable cold, which drove down production.
This year, demand far outstrips supply. But producers are struggling to keep up. Joe Boisvert had to raise prices at North Hadley Sugar Shack to $55 from $49 a gallon last year to buy enough diesel gasoline at $4.25 a gallon to fuel the pickup trucks that he uses to haul sap to his sugar house.
"The fuel cost and labor costs are skyrocketing," Boisvert said. "I'm sick of trying to figure out what it's going to cost me to get through the next year . . . We're just middle-class Americans trying to survive here, but it's getting tough."