A Warm Winter May Prompt a Maple Syrup Shortage

iStock / iStock

Breakfast lovers, beware: Thanks to an unseasonably warm winter that’s impacting some farmers’ production and quality levels, the price of maple syrup may eventually soar, Food & Wine reports.

February’s balmy temperatures caused crops across the country to start growing early, but syrup makers in the northeast U.S.—particularly Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the state’s top syrup-producing county—were hit particularly hard by the phenomenon, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some of them have produced around half of last year’s syrup yield, because the warmer weather makes it harder for farmers to tell when their sugar and red maple trees should be tapped.

Ideal sap-flowing conditions include freezing nights, followed by warmer days. But when toasty temperatures arrive too early, the sap starts rising while the trees begin budding; this changes the sap’s taste, making it bitter. Complicating matters even more, if a farmer taps a tree too early, it will heal before optimal harvest day. That being said, warmer weather isn’t always a bad thing for maple trees, as it can extend the harvesting season. However, night temperatures also need to dip, or else the trees will inevitably bud, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explained.

This is a big deal for syrup farmers’ finances, and for U.S. residents who can’t get enough of the sweet stuff: In 2015, The Wall Street Journal noted, the U.S. imported more than 5 million gallons of maple syrup from Canada and harvested 3.4 million gallons to satisfy consumer demand. Bottom line? If our streak of warm winter weather continues to affect farmers' trees, expect maple syrup prices to climb.

[h/t Food & Wine]