Tough season for maple producers

Sherry Martell
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NEW GLASGOW - Maple producers are tapping into innovative technology aiming to recover from one of the worst sap seasons in more than three decades.
Murray Johnston, president of the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia, said many producers experienced very disappointing yields but doesn't expect an exodus from the industry because of it.
"I don't think anybody is planning on quitting," said Johnston, a New Glasgow-based maple syrup producer. "I'm not giving up yet. If anything, some will tap more than last year because we can sell all we can make."
The results of the season were recently distributed to association members in a quarterly newsletter.
The average yield per tap in 2009 was just over 0.26 litres, the poorest since 1987.
The total production for the province was the lowest since 1991, but there were 77,100 fewer taps in 1991 than in 2009.
Johnston said while some traditional maple sugaring operations had extremely poor yields, a few with vacuum pump systems were able to collect more sap.
"It should give you a better yield of 10 to 20 per cent more sap," said the president.
He said some producers are seeking assistance from government-sponsored programs to help cover the cost of adding new equipment, such as vacuum pumps to their operations in an effort to improve yields.
Many other maple-producing provinces and states reported a good maple season, and in some areas like Quebec, a great season.
"It was Quebec's best season in years and our worst," said Johnston.
He was surprised by the poor weather conditions during the sap collection season, which typically spans several weeks, but only lasted a few days for some producers.
"Here it only ran good for three days and then it quit," he said.
During the next few weeks maple producers will be walking the lines in their sugar woods, repairing any damage from fallen branches or animals such as bears, deer, coyotes and squirrels that have a habit of chewing through plastic collection lines.
He said it is important to get the lines up before snow falls and they freeze on the ground.
About 54 per cent of producers experienced damage to trees and tubing systems from an early March ice storm last year. Other snow and windstorms throughout the fall and winter also caused considerable damage and the accumulation of damage meant time and labour required to get ready for the season was drastically increased.
"All we can do is hope for better weather next year," said Johnston.

Organizations: Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia

Geographic location: NEW GLASGOW, Quebec

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