Money and high-tech gear may be among the most common items thieves like to steal. Now add Quebec maple syrup — by the barrel — to the list.


Maple syrup, shown here for sale at Quebec City's market in the Old Port, is a prime target for thieves. Police say thieves are stealing barrels of syrup from producers in Quebec's Eastern Townships and the Montérégie. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))

In Quebec this year, the rising cost of maple syrup is making the sticky treat a prime target for thieves.

This week, someone broke into a sugar shack in Brome Lake in the Eastern Townships and made off with eight barrels of maple syrup containing about 15,000 litres, worth an estimated $16,000 to $18,000.

"This year, it is going to be a hot commodity, that's for sure; the price is very high," said Richard Birkholm, an investigator with the Quebec Provincial Police.

"The criminals always think of something that will be a hot commodity that they will sell quickly."

The retail cost of a can of maple syrup has gone up to $10 from $6 last year, due in part to reduced production last season.

Sugar shacks under watchful eye

Producers say syrup theft is becoming a more common occurrence in Quebec's sugar bush.

David Hall, who taps maples in Iron Hill near Knowlton, said he's started bringing his syrup home instead of leaving it at a camp in the woods.

"At this point in time, we have a new camp which is much closer to the road. It's something we are much more conscious of than we used to be," said Hall.

Maple syrup producer François Bourassa, who lives near Valcourt, lost six barrels of his syrup last year to thieves. He said other producers in the area have also had equipment stolen.

Bourassa isn't taking any chances with his harvest. Not only is he keeping his sugar shack under lock and key, he has also started blocking off the door to the building with his pickup truck.

Birkholm said police are investigating the latest case of theft, but so far they have few leads.

In the meantime, he said producers should be extra vigilant in keeping their syrup safe.