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The Maple Syrup Cartel That’s More Powerful Than OPEC

Martin Picard, the well-known chef of AuMartin Picard, the well-known chef of Au
Martin Picar chef of Au Pied de cochon famed restaurant in Montreal, looks at a test batch of his maple syrup March 9, 2012.Géraldine Woessner—AFP AFP/Getty Images

Woe betide those who cross the maple-syrup kingpins of rural Quebec.

That’s one conclusion you could draw from a report Thursday from Bloomberg, which takes a dive into the inner workings of a Canadian cartel—The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers—which controls roughly 70% of the globe’s maple syrup output.

According to the report the Federation has “excelled in its mission to bring price stability for the province’s 13,500 sap farmers.” It also compares the group favorably to OPEC, the cartel of oil-exporting nations that has recently had trouble getting its members to reign in supply amid the biggest collapse of oil prices in history.

But the maple syrup bosses may have a problem on their hands. With demand rising for their product as consumers flock to natural sweeteners and U.S. producers increasingly getting in on the action, Canada’s maple syrup producers are losing market share, causing observers to worry that the cartel-imposed quota on production is unsustainable.

Quebec Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis recently attacked the cartel in a 70-page report, which argues that its production quotas are stifling the industry and helping to create a black market for maple syrup.