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Green Mountain State Leads Syrup Producers

U.S. syrup makers had a sweet year, producing a record 3.2 million gallons.

The Department of Agriculture reported yesterday that 2013 production jumped 70 percent over 2012, boosted by ideal weather conditions that resulted in a long season and a high-quality product. The previous record of 2.8 million gallons was set in 2011.

Vermont, as usual, was the nation’s top producer, with more than 1.3 million gallons. New York was second with 574,000 gallons, and Maine sugarhouses produced 450,000 gallons.

“I expected it to be good but not that good,” said Eric Ellis, manager of Maine Maple Products in Madison, Maine.

The syrup industry needed a good year because inventories were getting low after last year’s relatively modest production, said Jacques Couture, who with his wife owns Couture’s Maple Shop/B&B in Westfield, Vt.

“It was a terrific year,” he said. “We had the opposite of last year when we had everything go wrong with the weather. This year we had everything go right with the weather.”

Syrup production increased in all 10 states that are listed in the USDA’s production report. After Vermont, New York and Maine, the other states in order of production were Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Every year beginning in mid-February to mid-March, syrup producers collect sap from taps that are inserted into maple trees and boil it down in their sugarhouses.

The syrup industry has grown, with a steady increase in the number of taps in the past decade, said Gary Keough, of the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Concord, N.H. This year, syrup makers used a record 10.5 million taps.

Keough thinks there’s still room for growth.

“Whenever you have an industry that keeps expanding, that’s usually a good sign they haven’t reached a point of diminishing returns yet,” he said.

The value of this year’s syrup won’t be released until next year, after the syrup is sold. But prices have been stable the past five years, and syrup makers said this year’s prices have been stable as well.

Couture, who is chairman of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, said the syrup market has been on the rise with new maple-flavored products and chefs using syrup in a growing number of recipes.

“Syrup isn’t just for pancakes anymore,” he said.