In 2012, Michel Gauvreau stepped into a nondescript brick warehouse with a big job on his hands. The warehouse, located in the small Canadian town of Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, contained one of the world’s most precious stockpiles—nearly 16,000 giant drums stacked to the ceiling, each containing $1,800 worth of maple syrup. Gauvreau, an accountant, was there to take inventory. His task: Count each one.
But as Gauvreau climbed onto one of the 54-gallon barrels to get a better view, it nearly tipped over. The barrel was empty! Gauvreau alerted the owners, and together they discovered the same was true of nearly 1,000 more barrels. Six million pounds of syrup—worth $18 million—had been stolen. It was one of the biggest thefts in Canadian history.
To make the plot thicker, this wasn’t any old maple syrup warehouse. It was the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve, a cache managed by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. The Federation is the syrup world’s equivalent of OPEC. As a legal cartel, it oversees about 75 percent of the world’s maple syrup supply, maintaining large reserves to control global syrup prices. That power hasn’t made a lot of farmers in Quebec very happy, since they need the Federation’s blessing to produce syrup to sell on the wholesale market. Recently, a black market for syrup has boomed—and this is what led some sticky-fingered thieves to siphon the Federation’s supply.
An investigation ensued. Police issued 40 search warrants and interviewed nearly 300 people. Detectives even did forensic analysis on syrup kettles and forklifts. In 2013, authorities made close to 30 arrests. By the time the full story was revealed, they’d learned that the thieves had rented a space in the warehouse and, over the course of a year, stealthily siphoned syrup while the guards were gone. While a reported two-thirds of the stolen syrup was eventually recovered, the rest disappeared in the marketplace. That’s a lot of pancakes.