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Sticky Fingers! $30 Million in Maple Syrup Stolen in Quebec

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The theft of 10 million pounds could undercut legitimate producers.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL The organization responsible for the global strategic maple syrup reserve has admitted that 10 million pounds of the stuff has disappeared from a warehouse in Quebec, according to the Globe and Mail. The theft translates to 755,000 gallons or 8.8% of total Canadian production of 8,552,000 gallons, using the Statscan CANSIM conversion factors.

The theft was discovered last week during a routine inventory check but the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers said they kept it quiet to aid police in solving the crime. Yesterday, however, the association released a press release on the situation. A spokesperson for the group, Ms. Granger Godbout, said that the supply was insured but the worry is that the thief could sell the commodity and undercut legitimate producers.

"It could be very harmful for the maple syrup industry," said Godbout.

According to some observers, this has been a tough year for maple syrup, and having some of the best quality material stolen could have a huge impact on the industry. While the CANSIM table showed Canadian production strongly increasing (the 2011 production was a 67% increase over 2007's 5,135,000 gallons), 2012 has been called one of the "worst tapping seasons on record" due to the warm end of the winter.

An expert on food policy at the University of Guelph, Sylvain Charlebois, said the theft could undercut gains the industry has made in global markets, particularly in Asia. "This is such a fragile industry, and any loss on the supply side could be devastating," said Charlebois.

The unusual theft has captured the public's attention. "If 200 hogs and 3,000 bags of pancake mix disappear, I think we have a pattern," joked one commenter. Other jokes revolve around the fact that it was such a physically large theft as it must have involved huge barrels or drums, forklifts, and large trucks to complete.

Others, including this reporter, were stunned to find out there was such a thing as a global strategic maple syrup reserve.

Another eye opener was that Quebec is responsible for between 70-80% of the world's production of maple syrup and two-thirds of the Canadian production exported to the United States, all courtesy of the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers' press release.

Prices are almost certain to rise as, in addition to the Quebec theft, several American states reported a very low, indeed catastrophic, harvest during the 2012 season

One company which might suffer is B&G Foods (BGS), the major importer of Quebec maple syrup. According to its SEC filings, any change in the commodity's acquisitions costs could have a "material adverse effect" on its finances.

See also: Commodity Thefts Sweep Canada

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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