Sap flows in some Quebec regions, stalls in others due to warm spring weather

While maple syrup producers in the Eastern Townships and Montérégie say the unseasonably warm weather has been bad for business, producers in the Lower Saint-Lawrence and Gaspésie regions are having a record year.

While producers in the Gaspésie rejoice, owners in the Eastern Townships aren't too happy

Maple producers in the north of the province have been having a record year. Meanwhile, those in the south say their season is being cut short by unseasonably warm weather. (Rebecca Ugolini/CBC)

While maple syrup producers in the Eastern Townships and Montérégie say the unseasonably warm weather has been bad for business, producers in the Lower Saint-Lawrence and Gaspésie regions are having a record year.

Justin Plourde, president of the maple producers union for the Lower Saint-Lawrence and Gaspésie, runs a sugar bush in Rivière-Bleue near the New Brunswick border.

He said in that region, the sap has been flowing under perfect conditions, with overnight frost followed by warmer temperatures during the day.

Plourde said he was able to harvest half-a-pound of sap per tap in two days.

Under normal circumstances, producers in Lower Saint-Lawrence usually harvest between three and three-and-a-half pounds per tap for a whole season, which lasts between four and six weeks.

The only downside? Plourde said the abundance of liquid means a lower sugar content in the sap.

The sap in the Rivière-Bleue region has been flowing freely but with a lower sugar content than normal. (CBC)

Unlike the normal sugar content of three per cent, the product he's been gathering hovers around 2.5 per cent. 

This means producers will need to boil down more sap to make the maple syrup.

Short season in southern Quebec

After breaking production records over the past three years, the 2021 season for maple syrup producers in the south of the province is falling flat.

Several owners say the sudden spike in temperature last month means they may only reach half of their normal production before the season is cut short.

"The heat of the past week at 18, 20 and 23 C that we had here in the sugar bush, it is very, very negative for a season. It makes the buds develop, and it may change the taste of the syrup," said Jean-François Laplante, owner of l'Érabilis in Sherbrooke.

The state of affairs is especially tough for producers who normally operate restaurants out of their sugar shacks.

Pandemic health restrictions kept owners from opening their dining rooms so they had to get creative, offering up food baskets for delivery and pickup.

France Demers, co-owner of Ferme Magolait in Magog, told Radio-Canada that the baskets helped salvage the season.

"We made baskets with maple products for companies. It went over well. Gift baskets, things like that. And we did our popcorn that people really like," said Demers.

Despite the loss of sugar-bush visitors and restaurant revenue, Quebec producers are still doing well selling their product at home and internationally.

According to the association of maple producers in Quebec, the province produced an estimated 175 million pounds of syrup in 2020.

That accounts for 73 per cent of the world's maple syrup production.

With files from Radio-Canada