Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's maple syrup producers facing $2M repair costs from winter damage

Nova Scotia’s maple syrup industry is still recovering from the brutal winter of 2015, and last year’s damage from ice and snow will likely curtail the 2016 maple season.

Nova Scotia's maple syrup production was down 41 per cent last year from the previous four years

Kevin McCormick, past president of the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia says last year's ice and snow wreaked havoc with the networks of plastic tubes maple producers use to collect sap. (Jack Julian/CBC)

Nova Scotia's maple syrup industry is still recovering from the brutal winter of 2015, and last year's damage from ice and snow will likely curtail the 2016 maple season.

"There's a tremendous amount in the industry left to do," said Kevin McCormick, past president of the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia.

According to Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia's maple syrup production last year was down 41 per cent from the average of the previous four years. At 68,000 litres, it was the lowest volume since 1991.

McCormick says ice and snow wreaked havoc with the networks of plastic tubes maple producers use to collect sap and channel it to holding tanks for evaporation.

"As snow settles, in the spring, as it melts, it pulls everything with it," he said. "By the time the snow settled, and pipes started showing up, the damage started showing up. There's actually a few producers who had pretty much zero sap flow."

Kilometres of frozen sap lines

McCormick estimates more than half of the province's approximately 450,000 maple taps were badly damaged last year.

He says deep snow also froze sap in the lines, bringing systems to a halt.

"Sap can't flow through that pipe when it's frozen, so once it's under the snow, the snow's insulation, it never thawed out," he said.

Replacing maple syrup taps costs about $12 each, the repair cost for Nova Scotia maple producers upwards of $2 million. (Jack Julian/CBC)

McCormick says the only option was to try to shovel out kilometres of sap lines from under a metre or more of snow.

"There was nothing left at the end of the day. We worked extremely hard," he said.

McCormick says he was able to maintain sap flow at his sugar bush with a crew of four or five dedicated shovellers. 

$2 million to repair

"Our production turned out to be slightly less for our own operation. But the cost to get it was probably six to seven-fold."

McCormick estimates 200,000 Nova Scotian maple taps will still be damaged going into this maple season, which typically lasts from mid-March to mid-April.

That could depress syrup production another year.

"Unless Mother Nature co-operates really well and the weather co-operates, but realistically, it's probably going to be the case," he said.

Replacing maple syrup taps costs about $12 each, leaving the total repair bill upwards of $2 million.

Help on the way

Monday night, the maple producers received a boost that could cover nearly half of the needed repairs. 

The federal and provincial governments are creating a $950,000 fund to buy new material to collect sap. The Canada-Nova Scotia Maple Sector Initiative is a 60-40 partnership, with the federal government covering the larger portion of the final bill.

Maple producers must buy their equipment by September and install it by the end of 2016 to qualify for the program. They'll be reimbursed after the materials are installed. 

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