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Sugar time: Quebec maple syrup producers have high hopes for a sweet season

At Sucrerie de la Montagne in Rigaud, Que., employees are trekking into the property’s 120-acre forest to tap its maple trees because the sap is ready to flow.

“The beginning of March is kind of early,” said Pierre Faucher, Sucrerie de la Montagne founder and owner. “Normally our first crops are around the 10th of March, the 15th of March, and one year, April.”

The sucrerie will tap its trees for a few days and then start to boil it.

Faucher and his team have been marking down the dates that it begins the boiling process every year since 2012.

They don’t remember the last time they started in February.

That means Faucher has high hopes for a good sugar season.

“I’m never down, my hopes are always high,” Faucher said laughing.

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A strong season would certainly be good for producers across Quebec, seeing as last year was one of the worst for maple syrup production.

According to Statistics Canada, production dropped drastically in Quebec in 2023.

The province produced 9.4 million gallons, down 41 per cent from 2022, and the lowest level since 2018.

“Maple syrup production is incredibly related to temperature,” Simon Doré-Ouellet from the Quebec Maple Producers Association said. “We have a really short period of time where we can produce maple syrup so if the temperature is not perfect or close to perfect during that time of year, it has a major impact.”

The association says in recent years, maple syrup producers have been trying to adapt to climate change.

This year many have started tapping early, and though it is unusual, they say they hope the early start will mean a strong season.

“We’re hopeful that this strand is going to last for the full production, because we really need a good year, if not a great year, to fulfill the market demands that we have, the export markets, and also to build back our strategic reserve — our inventories are low,” Doré-Ouellet said. “So we really need a good year.”

But not only production is important; so is the experience of the sugar shack.

On top of the sweet stuff, once the sap starts flowing, places like these come alive with a tradition Faucher hopes will continue for generations to come.

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