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Friday, January 11, 2013

The Great Maple Syrup Heist

A variety of pure maple syrup containers are displayed at Ben's Sugar Shack in Temple, N.H., in February 2012. (Charles Krupa/AP)

A variety of pure maple syrup containers are displayed at Ben’s Sugar Shack in Temple, N.H., in February 2012. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Did you know that the greatest agricultural theft ever was of maple syrup?

Last year, six million pounds of maple syrup, valued at 18 million dollars, was stolen from the Global Maple Syrup Reserve in northern Québec province.

Bloomberg Businessweek writer Brendan Borrell told Here & Now’s Robin Young that it would have taken more than 100 tractor trailers to transport that amount of syrup.

The Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers was established in order to stabilize prices and allow for a year-long supply of syrup to make up for the relatively short production season at the end of winter.

But after discovering numerous empty barrels – or barrels filled with water – Canadian law enforcement officials launched an investigation. Eventually they found a link between syrup middleman Richard Vallières and Etienne St. Pierre, a well-known syrup trafficker in Kedgwick, New Brunswick.

Unlike Québec, New Brunswick has no syrup federation, so producers can sell to whomever they want without any production quotas.

While the Federation can sue St. Pierre in civil court, it is still unclear whether he broke criminal laws. Nevertheless, Borrell mentions how St. Pierre could be an ideological leader.

“I personally see him as a bit of hero for his cause, which is the free market,” Borrell said.

Maple syrup trades at about 32 dollars a gallon, 13 times the price of crude oil.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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