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As trade war looms, Canadians horrified to learn some maple syrup is actually from the United States

Donald Trump’s new tariffs highlighted a shift many Canadians didn’t realise: an increasing amount of American syrup is sold in Canada

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 12:17pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 8:27pm

When Justin Trudeau’s government launched retaliatory tariffs against the US last week, Canadians were not surprised to see one totemic product had been caught up in the brewing trade war.

Maple syrup, produced in bulk and exported around the world, is seen as integral to the country’s identity.

But the new duties prompted a shocking revelation for many Canadians: an increasing amount of American maple syrup is being sold in Canada.

“We were buying Maple syrup from the US? Doesn’t Canada make like 85% of all Maple syrup in the world?” asked one Twitter user.

Canada long enjoyed de facto leadership of global maple syrup production, largely thanks to producers in the province of Quebec.

Through heavy investments technology and the creation of a maple syrup federation – which its critics allege operates like a cartel – the province is responsible for nearly 90 per cent of Canada’s production, and until recently, three-quarters of global consumption.

But the new tariffs – which the foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, characterised as “the strongest trade action Canada has taken in the post-war era” – highlighted a gradual shift that many Canadians did not realise has been quietly unfolding for years: the country’s tight grip on maple syrup is weakening.

In 2016, Quebec imported US$20 million worth of syrup, almost all of it from the US.

A number of people took to social media to digest the surprising revelation.

Jesse Wente, a Toronto writer and film critic, wrote on Twitter: “I can’t wait for some of that American maple syrup!” said no one ever.”

Another user said it was “ offensive ” that Canada even imported syrup.

In a bid to unseat Canada as the largest producer – and taking advantage of a warming climate – American states are tapping maple trees at a rate nearly four times the rate of their Canadian counterparts.

Much of this reflects a shift in consumer preference: with corn-based syrups losing popularity over the last few years, sales of maple syrup have surged.

The tariffs, if they go into effect, will have their largest impact on producers in Vermont, which produces nearly half of all US syrup.