Based on the word from Ohio producers attending annual maple manufacturers’ open houses, it was a big year in New England for syrup production. Many of the big northern Vermont and New Hampshire producers were not present, they were still boiling syrup. When the steam cleared and the last syrup was drawn off, Vermont produced a record 1.9 million gallons of syrup in a single season. Let that sink in, it was only 10 years ago that we struggled to produce 2 million gallons collectively in all of the United States, and in 2016, the state of Vermont produced almost 2 million gallons on their own! Vermont previous record was 1.48 million gallons set in 2013. The United States produced 4.2 million gallons in total, the highest amount in modern record keeping. New York (707,000), Maine (675,000), Wisconsin (235,000), and New Hampshire (169,000) rounded out the top 5 states.
With all the syrup produced in the United States, you can only imagine what they did “north of the border.” Yes it was big, it was really big. The Canadian crop is projected at 13.5 million gallons. This would set a new record for Canadian maple syrup produced and individual provinces are expected to set records as well. You can rest assured that there will not be any shortage of pure maple syrup in the world for some time and one has to wonder what the effect will be on maple syrup prices, especially bulk.
So what about Ohio? Unfortunately, our 2016 did not share in the record crop celebration.
Ohio Maple Producers knew 2016 was going to be a disappointing year for maple syrup production, and the USDA NASS report verified our worst fears. 2016 was a real bummer for the entire state. Total production for Ohio dropped from 115,000 gallons in 2015 to 70,000 gallons in 2016. Yield per tap, generally a good production indicator, averaged 0.275 gallons per tap in 2014 and 2015 but only 0.189 gallons per tap in 2016. Normally Ohio bests most states in production per tap, but this year’s production was on the verge of disaster. The sugar content of sap (often near or below 1%) certainly did not help the overall per tap production of syrup.
Another statistic that was very puzzling was the total number of taps recorded for 2016. This year the number of taps in Ohio dropped from 450,000 to 370,000 taps. In the last 10 years, the number of taps in Vermont and New York almost doubled – Vermont is just shy of 5 million taps and NY is pushing 2.5 million. What is going on in Ohio? Why are we in a statistical state of decline? A better question may be – Is there really a decline? Working with OSU Extension and the Ohio maple industry for the last 18 years, I have witnessed an overall expansion of the industry. It has not been unusual to see the number of 3,000+ tap operations increase every year. I know of several new operations that just eclipsed the 10,000 tap mark. While we will never be in the same category as New York or Vermont, our maple industry is growing. However, when you look at the statistics, we are not recognized as a growth industry – we are an agricultural industry in decline.
The reality is that a large portion of Ohio’s maple syrup production is not being reported. There is an old saying that “if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” I believe that Ohio maple producers are doing a good job of producing syrup, but for some reason they are reluctant to let the world know how good of a job they are doing. Because the world rewards those that achieve excellence, it is crucial that Ohio producers improve on their reporting habits and the reward will undoubtedly be increased consumer demand and higher retail sales.