Monday, December 24, 2018

Artificial Scarcity: The IMF on the Economics of Maple Syrup

First posted June 2013
You probably remember the big maple syrup heist of August 2012 and the revelation that there was a "global strategic maple syrup reserve". Here's the rest of the story.
From the Conversable Economist:

The Economics of Maple Syrup
It sounds like the plot-line from a crime-caper-gone-wrong movie, but Canada's global strategic maple syrup reserve was drained of $18 million worth of syrup last fall. robbed last fall. Jacqueline Deslauriers tells the story in "Liquid Gold," in the June 2013 issue of Finance & Development. She tells the story (citations omitted for readability) : 
"Although its value to the Canadian economy may pale in comparison with, say, wheat or soybeans, maple syrup trumps the vast wheat fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan when it comes to Canadian cultural identity. It is for good reason that the maple leaf is Canada’s best-known symbol. Canadians’ deep attachment to this exotic food shapes their attitude toward protecting the price farmers receive for producing maple syrup.­ ... Maple trees, the source of maple syrup, grow naturally in eastern North America. Canada produces 80 percent of the world’s supply of maple syrup, and the province of Quebec, where the heist took place, accounts for 90 percent of Canada’s production ...

"The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers was set up in 1966 to represent and advocate for producers—most of them dairy farmers who supplemented their income by tapping maple trees. By the 1990s, maple syrup output had grown rapidly, and by 2000 the industry was producing a surplus of between 1.3 and 2 million gallons a year. Because maple syrup is so easily stored, in bumper years the 80 licensed maple syrup buyers from Canada and three U.S.-based buyers stocked up at low prices, and bought less during lean years when prices tended to be higher. By and large, farmers were at the mercy of the buyers. ...

"Things changed in 2001, when a bumper crop of almost 8.2 million gallons of maple syrup sent prices plunging. That prompted producers to change the federation from an advocacy group to a marketing board that could negotiate better prices with the buyers. ... The new-look federation also began to store surplus production to keep prices from plunging....MORE
And more on Canadian cuisine, June 2018:

False Bacon of Hope: "150 Years of Canadian Culinary History"

Yes, yes Canadians don't really eat the stuff and it's not considered bacon by Her Majesty's former subjects but it's my headline and I'm going with it.

From Smithsonian Magazine, May 25:

New Exhibition Serves Up 150 Years of Canadian Culinary History
‘Mixed Messages: Making and Shaping Culinary Culture in Canada’ features cookbooks, photos and artifacts from the 1820s to the 1960s
Poutine. Maple syrup. Ketchup chips. All fall under the banner of “Canadian” food.
But a new exhibition at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library offers a more nuanced take on just what exactly encompasses Canadian cuisine.

Using rare cookbooks, photos and artifacts, “Mixed Messages: Making and Shaping Culinary Culture in Canada,” which opened Tuesday and will run through August 17, whips up the story of some 150 years of Canada’s historical plates.

Deconstructing the idea of Canadian identity is at the heart of the exhibition, says co-curator Irina Mihalache, who is an assistant professor of museum studies at the university. “What we wanted to do is rather than say this is what Canadian culinary culture looks like, we wanted to show how chaotic and messy and impossible it is to pin down,” Mihalache explains in a press release.
That means, for instance, showcasing histories of how Indigenous foods became viewed as “Canadian” after they were appropriated by settlers, or the artifacts that recorded what early immigrants brought to Canada, like an 1890s English bottle of curry powder.

Various cookbooks also shed light on Canada’s trending recipes. In addition to the first English-language Canadian cookbook (The Frugal Housewife’s Manual) and first French-language Canadian cookbook (La Cuisiniére Canadienne), on display are editions of author Catharine Parr Traill’s Female Emigrant’s Guide, a guidebook that includes advice for new immigrants to Canada about things like what produce to grow....MORE