Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 5 - Evidence - Meeting of November 15, 2011
OTTAWA, Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
5:16 p.m. to examine and report on research and innovation efforts in the
agricultural sector. (Topic: Innovation in the agriculture and agri-food sector
from the producers' perspective.)
Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, I welcome you to the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.
I will ask the senators to introduce themselves. My name is Percy Mockler,
chair of the committee and senator from New Brunswick.
Senator Robichaud: I am Fernand Robichaud from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, in
Senator Mahovlich: I am Senator Mahovlich from Ontario.
Senator Ogilvie: My name is Senator Kelvin Ogilvie from Nova Scotia.
Senator Eaton: I am Senator Nicole Eaton from Ontario.
Senator Rivard: Michel Rivard, the Laurentides, Quebec.
The Chair: Thank you. We are continuing our study of research and
innovation efforts in the agricultural sector.
Today we are focusing on understanding innovation vision in the agricultural
sector and the agri-food sector from the producers' perspective.
I am sure you have had a look at the notice of meeting for this Senate
hearing, which has three objectives: the development of new domestic and
international markets, strengthening the sustainable development of agriculture,
and improving food diversity and security.
Today, honourable senators, we have the opportunity to have the witnesses
share their vision with us, their experience and also to make recommendations to
We thank the witnesses for having accepted our invitation.
Honourable senators, we have with us today from the Federation of Quebec
Maple Syrup Producers, Ms. Anne- Marie Granger Godbout, Executive Director,
Market, as well as Ms. Geneviève Béland, Director, Innovation and Development.
We are joined by the Canadian Honey Council, Mr. Rod Scarlett, Executive
Director. Thank you for accepting our invitation and we look forward to hearing
And I would be remiss if I did not introduce our last, though certainly not
our least witness, Mr. Yvon Poitras, General Manager of the New Brunswick Maple
Syrup Association. Mr. Poitras, we know that you and your producers are world
leaders of the Canadian industry with your recipes using maple syrup, and your
syrup that everyone likes. We commend you.
Senator Eaton: We did not get these recipes.
The Chair: You did not get the recipe book? Well, we will distribute
it. We will ensure that each senator receives a recipe book, in French and in
We will hear from the Canadian Honey Council, Mr. Rod Scarlett, to be
followed by Mr. Poitras, and then the last presentation will be made by Ms.
Granger Godbout and Ms. Béland.
Rod Scarlett, Executive Director, Canadian Honey Council: I will begin
by thanking the committee members for allowing me the opportunity to address you
The Canadian Honey Council is truly a national organization representing all
beekeeper organizations from British Columbia to the Maritimes. In 2010 there
were about 7,284 beekeepers operating about 617,264 colonies in Canada.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has indicated that our sector provides direct
and indirect economic benefits of nearly $2.7 billion to the economy. The
honeybee, honey production and pollination industries play an important and
growing role in Canada and the world. Worldwide attention to the health of the
honeybee has helped focus public attention to the industry.
Briefly I want to give you a couple of important facts about the honey
industry. Canada is the eleventh largest producer of honey, with an estimated
total production of about 73.3 million pounds in 2010. The Prairie provinces
produce about 80 per cent of Canada's honey and contain about 70 per cent of the
total number of colonies. Manitoba has about one quarter of the small commercial
honeybee operations, while Alberta has nearly half of the largest commercial
operations. On the other hand, hobby apiaries are located in British Columbia
with about 31 per cent, Quebec with about 23 per cent, and Ontario with about 18
Disease is a major issue facing the bee sector in Canada. The normal
long-term overwintering mortality rate was traditionally about 15 per cent, but
that has doubled in recent years.
Beekeeping has usually been considered an industry with little economic
impact. The truth is that honey and beehive- related products account for less
than 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent of Canada's agricultural and livestock cash
receipts. However, the secondary components are very important. In 2009, the
total value of honey produced was $126.3 million, up about $21.1 million from
2008. We are now only starting to realize the full impact of pollination and its
growing importance in food production.
The number of beekeepers has declined by one half over the last three
decades, while the number of hives remains stable. Twenty per cent of the
beekeepers own 80 per cent of the beehives, and 60 per cent of the hives are
used to pollinate at least one crop.
The Canadian Honey Council has established four priorities as part of our
long-term planning. These priorities are hive health, which helps to maintain
thriving, productive livestock; market access and share; increased demand that
supports better prices; food safety; top-quality products that instill consumer
confidence; labour and succession, that is, qualified people to work in the
industry now and in the future. I think these priorities match up very nicely
with the mandate of this committee. I will start with developing new markets
domestically and internationally.
The CHC has been actively following the developments in the European Union as
a result of a recent decision by the European Court of Justice that only
authorized or approved GM pollens be allowed in honey and that, if such pollens
are found in honey, they must be labelled accordingly. Discussions have taken
place with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, AAFC, to ensure that Canada and
Canadian honey are properly represented during these discussions in the EU. To
date there has been no final interpretation by the EU of this ruling. However,
we are anxiously waiting for this interpretation to determine how it will apply
to Canadian honey. It is far too early to say, but the potential ramifications
for the Canadian beekeeper and for honey production are far-reaching in that it
could radically change our honey markets as well as impact pricing. Not only is
our third largest market currently cut off, that is, the EU, but we are now in a
position of competing with honey produced in other GM countries such as
Argentina and Brazil for our traditional markets and our largest market, which
is the U.S., where nearly $42 million worth of trade is being affected. This is
a very troubling and complicated development in our industry, and I would be
pleased to elaborate on it further during questions.
Work continues with various producers and cooperatives opening up new market
opportunities in Japan and China. An issue that has vexed the Canadian Honey
Council is how we currently define honey and its impact on beekeepers. In many
instances, what is labelled as honey could be mixtures simulated to taste like
honey but without its true characteristics. The reason for this is a combination
of poor regulations, a fundamental lack of will from large corporations to
identify honey as a singular commodity and, just as important, the lack of
concerted pressure from industry to get what it wants.
The CHC also provides information and promotes its products and production
domestically. Earlier this year, Health Canada introduced a honey botulism
campaign designed to inform consumers that it is recommended that honey not be
given to children under the age of one. While we have absolutely no problem with
the intention of that campaign, it would have been nice if Health Canada had
informed the industry that it was launching such a campaign and, furthermore, if
it had fully informed the public that honey represents no threat to individuals
over the age of one. It is hard to estimate the impact this campaign had on
Finally, we are a participant in Brand Canada and are exploring other options
for future domestic and international sales.
With regard to enhancing agricultural sustainability, our industry directly
impacts 60 per cent of the food we eat, so a healthy and sustainable bee
population is essential to Canada's overall agricultural stability. As mentioned
previously, overwintering bee loss has increased substantially since 2006. The
cause for this loss is in part due to the appearance of a parasitic mite called
Varroa destructor, a microsporidian called Nosema, environmental
factors and lack of treatment options.
In January the Canadian Honey Council will be hosting a bee stock risk
management symposium where industry will review domestic production as well as
import policy. As a result of high losses, it is extremely important that
beekeepers have access to healthy stock in a timely manner. We need to develop
strong domestic production but cannot be totally reliant on one source.
Currently imports are necessary for the continued growth of the industry and, as
such, developing safe, healthy import protocols in conjunction with the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency, CFIA, is paramount.
Another issue that relates to sustainability is bee health research and the
development of affordable and effective bee treatments. The current working
relationship with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, PMRA, is very good, but
we need to be continually on the leading edge in development of bee treatments
as resistance to existing treatments increases.
The lack of a domestic workforce has meant that commercial bee operations are
reliant on foreign workers. Service Canada has been helpful in developing an
agricultural stream, but more work needs to be done to ensure that beekeepers
get access to workers in a timely fashion. At the same time, Grande Prairie
Regional College in Northern Alberta recently announced the creation of a
beekeeping certificate program, which will go a long way toward helping
beekeepers obtain qualified help.
With regard to improving food diversity and security, currently the CHC, in
cooperation with CFIA and AAFC, is completing a food safety procedures manual
for beekeepers. At the same time, we are working on a bee bio-security plan. Due
to this work, Canada is renowned as a food safety leader in honey.
One thing our industry continues to lack is resources, mainly on the manpower
front. We think it is essential that a national surveillance program be
initiated rather than relying on individual provinces to do that job. At the
same time, CFIA does not have the resources or the expertise to do the job. As a
result, the provinces have been forced to pick up the slack, and each province
handles things a little differently. A coordinated effort with all players
involved would go long way toward securing the health of our bees, which would
in turn add to the security of Canadian food production.
Finally, related to this is the fact that expanding commodities that rely on
pollination could face bee shortages without a properly supported bee industry.
Thank you for your attention. We will welcome questions at the end.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Scarlett. I will ask Mr. Poitras for his
presentation. Following the presentation from the Federation of Quebec Maple
Syrup Producers, senators will ask you questions.
Yvon Poitras, General Manager, New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association:
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, honourable senators. The office of the New
Brunswick Maple Syrup Association has been in existence for six years.
Previously we only had a council where a few people met to discuss things once a
Six years ago, a federal agency came to ask me to open an office and set up a
maple syrup association in New Brunswick.
That agency told us at the time that the industry in New Brunswick was
considered to be dormant, and hence not really considered an industry.
Since that time, New Brunswick has ranked third among maple syrup producers
in the world, after Quebec and Vermont, followed by Ontario and New York State.
We produce between 4 and 5 million pounds, or 1.8 million kilograms of maple
syrup per year, which we consider to be of high quality. We are proud to say
that we have in New Brunswick the largest single producer of maple syrup in the
world, with more than 178,000 taps. We have the largest organic producer in the
world with over 110,000 taps. On a yearly basis, we generate between $10 million
and $15 million in revenue for the province, depending on mother nature and the
After six years in existence, the office now has 125 members from all four
corners of the province, and 80 per cent of the production takes place in the
northern part of the province.
The association divides its activities into three parts: operational
activities, provincial marketing activities and international marketing. We do
not claim to be as large as our colleagues in Quebec and Vermont, but our
production is similar, albeit on a smaller scale. We work in close cooperation
with our colleagues from Quebec on certain files which I will discuss later.
From the operational point of view, we instruct our members. For the past
five years we have helped our members to expand within our borders, and we are
now attempting to help them to expand beyond our borders, so as to gain more
territory. This is becoming a problem over time because our provincial
government does not see our expansion from the same perspective. That is where
lobbying becomes necessary.
With regard to regional marketing, our main activity is promotions, to remind
people that we do indeed produce maple syrup, but that maple syrup is not only
for pancakes, and so we do other things such as produce recipe books. I will
make sure that the senators receive a copy of that cookbook. We prepared a
recipe book in New Brunswick, and we also published one in France.
The international side will probably interest the senators more. We do not
have the funds and the capacity of some of our colleagues to do international
marketing. However, we work among other things on a file known as the Canadian
Maple Syrup Table, chaired by the Quebec federation. The four Canadian producing
provinces — Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and Nova Scotia — sit at that table.
The decisions on research and development involving maple syrup and applying to
Canada are made at that table. We take part in those discussions and we also
share in the decision-making.
Moreover, as vice-president of the International Maple Syrup Institute, I am
aware of other matters that could be of interest to you. For instance, at this
time, Health Canada and the Canadian agency have just received an application
for the acceptance of new grades, standards that we establish, standards that
will be similar in Canada and the United States. Up until now, there were
different maple syrup grades in Canada and the United States, but over the past
seven years the institute has been working to standardize the grades in both
countries. The American and Canadian governments now have the document in hand.
We made them a copy and we asked that the document be adopted in both countries
by the two agencies involved. I hope this document will reach you. I already
sent a copy to Senator Mockler's office to make sure that as chair of the
committee he would have a copy at his disposal. But the document has mostly been
distributed to the Department of Health and to the Department of Agriculture and
This has been a very brief explanation of what we have been doing in New
Brunswick over the past six years, because I was told that I did not have much
time. We are a youthful organization and we are small if we compare ourselves to
some of our neighbours, but we work with what we have. We try, especially where
research and development are concerned, to work with the management table. We
are also a part not only of the international institute, but also of the North
American Maple Syrup Council, another body that does research on maple syrup.
This research is very important for the future. Some very interesting
health-related research is being done. Communiqués are issued on a regular
basis, and I am certain that you will be hearing about the most recent document,
which concerns a product that will have an impact on liver health and was
developed with maple sap. There is a doctor in Montreal who is studying certain
molecules that could be used as heart medication. This research is made possible
by the cooperation between the federal government and the Canadian maple
management table. We encourage this work wholeheartedly, as our organization is
not large enough to do this on its own, but the table can do that quite
And I will conclude on these words; I would be happy to answer your
questions, and I thank you again for your invitation.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Poitras. We will now ask Ms.
Béland and Ms. Granger Godbout to make their presentations.
Anne-Marie Granger Godbout, Executive Director, Market, Federation of
Quebec Maple Syrup Producers: Good afternoon, Mr. Chair. The Federation of
Quebec Maple Syrup Producers thanks you cordially for allowing it to share its
experience and its vision of innovation in agriculture with you. I am going to
begin the presentation and Ms. Béland will do a part of it, and then I will
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers was created in 1966 by virtue
of the Professional Syndicates Act to support the interests of Quebec's 13,500
maple syrup producers. These producers operate some 7,400 maple businesses.
Grouped by region, they are represented by 11 regional syndicates, all
affiliated with the FPAQ.
These businesses, of every size and in every region, have chosen to join
forces to take control of their production and make a better living from their
occupation. Quebec produces 91 per cent of Canada's maple syrup and
approximately 80 per cent of the maple syrup produced in Canada is exported.
In 1989, by virtue of the Act respecting the marketing of agricultural and
food products in Quebec, the producers asked the FPAQ to manage a joint plan to
take charge of and organize the conditions under which their product is produced
and marketed. They asked their federation to be efficient, rigorous and
visionary. They also expected to bring stakeholders together and foster
discussion and consensus-building among maple producers with different views.
In addition to generating some $300 million in sales, more than $734 million
in GDP and 12,000 full-time equivalent jobs, Quebec maple producers invest close
to $7 million annually in funding projects or activities that serve the
interests of the entire maple industry. This supports effective, orderly
marketing of maple products. These sums are generated through their
contributions to the joint plan.
I will now yield the floor to Ms. Béland for the part on maple, a technical
sales platform ready for rollout.
Geneviève Béland, Director, Innovation and Development, Federation of
Quebec Maple Syrup Producers: Over the past few years, we have come to
realize that maple syrup is much more than that alone, and it is not just for
Since 2005 more specifically, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers
has on behalf of the Canadian maple syrup industry — in close cooperation with
the Canadian Maple Syrup Advisory Committee or the table Mr. Poitras is a member
of — has been developing cutting-edge expertise in innovation and adding value
Some of the results are already offering a glimpse of new applications and
the development of new markets to respond to new industrial, natural and
functional trends. Others require reliable scientific proof to even further
support innovation in non-traditional sectors for maple.
For example, the FPAQ was able to generate different types of extracts,
including sugarless maple extract, MSx, which stands for Maple Syrup Extract.
The MSx is a concentrate of bioactive molecules in maple that could be marketed
in the cosmetics, natural health products, pharmaceutical or biotechnology
industries. Maple syrup deemed to have flavour flaws or to be unfit for human
consumption could thus become a desirable product, for it possesses the
value-added technical-economic and commercial properties sought. Research on the
physiological effects of this new product is necessary to actualize its
potential. Interestingly, Italy is investing in this same technological thrust
with its national product, olive oil.
Also, the coconut water industry is expanding rapidly and huge investments
are keeping demand high. In fact, the multinational PepsiCo Inc. is planning to
make major investments in the Philippines, where the number of trees able to be
put into production is estimated at 324 million. Pasteurized and sterilized
maple sap offers similar potential. It is a direct response to the big market
trends: natural, simple, authentic, fresh-tasting and pleasant, nutritional and
functional, practical — plus it can be used to create original and unique
innovations to satisfy the desire for new sensory experiences.
There are important potential markets to discover and develop, and industries
are ever on the lookout for new input products. Maple syrup, maple sap and all
the other products created from maple, including the waste from production, are
likely to have the sought-after technical, economic and commercial properties.
Maple's competitive advantages have value for the food ingredients industry
as well as the functional beverage industry and the cosmetics ingredients
sector. Investing in these avenues will enable maple to maintain and develop its
positioning in the food industry of the 21st century and to expand to
value-added non-food applications. India and Australia are investing in these
types of technologies, which break down scientific silos and bring agriculture,
nutrition and pharmaceuticals under one roof.
Quebec's maple syrup producers and the Government of Canada have recognized
this and are investing in a long- term vision to ensure the industry's viability
over the long haul. The New Generation of Maple: 2020 strategy supports the
growth of the maple market in order to benefit the Canadian maple industry,
based on: developing knowledge, technologies and potential new products;
adapting and creating production techniques according to market needs in order
to deliver value-added products; developing markets based on the knowledge
acquired through research.
This coordinated process lays the foundation for Canadian maple's
competitiveness throughout the world.
The vision and leadership of Quebec maple syrup producers and their ripple
effect have in fact allowed Quebec maple producers to use their strength within
their federation to develop a creative marketing approach. The creativity and
energy of these businesses and the economic benefits for the region are the
pillars of innovation in the maple industry. Quebec maple syrup producers are
making major collective investments in precompetitive research and innovation.
An individual approach would never have been able to create such a momentum.
This leadership has a clear ripple effect.
For example, the international scientific community is increasingly
interested in maple. It is no longer rare for researchers here or abroad to
invest independently in research on the benefits of maple products. By doing so,
they are learning more about maple and raising its visibility. We are witnessing
the emergence of crucial expertise for the development of new commercial
applications and new opportunities for the maple industry.
The first research initiatives are also stimulating processors' creativity.
As understanding of the composition of maple products and their health benefits
is refined, we are seeing a bevy of innovative products appear, such as maple
sugar flakes, alcoholic beverages made from maple, herbal teas, maple vinegars,
et cetera. And molecular cuisine, a revolution in the culinary world that has
captured the federation's interest, made it possible for a processor to create
amazing ``maple pearls,'' a veritable maple caviar.
In order for the innovation system to stimulate innovation, relying on
credible, influential, high-profile people to spread the word is essential. This
is why the federation has chosen to partner with the greatest experts in several
fields, even if it meant looking the world over for them, such as: Dr. Navindra
Seeram, Professor at the University of Rhode Island; Dr. Keiko Abe, Professor
Emeritus of the University of Tokyo; Mr. Christophe Morel, world-famous
chocolatier and maple ambassador, and Mr. Joseph Viola, world-famous chef and
maple ambassador. These are but a few examples from a very long list.
This is proving to be a winning strategy as can be seen in our exports and
The maple industry's innovation system, created at the federation's
initiative, is fairly unique in the agri-food sector. It is modeled on that of
the biotechnology industry, outlining the development of an intellectual
property portfolio strategy that fosters investment in innovation. It should be
noted that this system really benefits all of the Canadian maple production
since the licensing agreements are offered on condition that Canadian maple
products be used exclusively.
Ms. Granger Godbout: Quality, authenticity and traceability are our
biggest assets. Canadian maple is a flagship product, closely tied to the
national identity. Maple products are a strong symbol of Canadian identity and
culture, recognized abroad. They are a part of our local traditions and boast
quality rooted in age-old know-how. The first use of the maple leaf as a symbol
of English Canada goes back to 1848, in a Toronto literary publication, The
Maple Leaf, which presented it as the emblem chosen to represent both
Canadas. One hundred years later, the maple leaf would be officially crowned the
sole symbol of the Canadian federation.
By expanding awareness of maple products, awareness of all Canadian products
is raised. Investing in maple is all the more important for the economy because
its share of mind and the growth momentum of maple businesses will influence the
perceived quality of all Canadian products abroad.
Maple is perfectly aligned with major global trends. Maple offers fundamental
characteristics of top quality foods: a unique flavour and gastronomic
experience; an artisanal, limited quantity production process; a natural and
simple composition — just one ingredient; a wholesome and healthy profile; a
``local'' or ``exotic'' identity, depending on the consumer; et cetera.
The quality of Canadian maple products is well known and undeniable, for the
vast majority of bulk maple syrup, Quebec's, is systematically inspected and
graded. Indeed, the bulk syrup sales agency in Quebec, administered by the
federation, provides for the grading and inspection of 100 per cent of the
200,000 barrels of maple syrup produced every year. This quality control is
handled by an external laboratory and regulated by the Quebec Act Respecting the
Marketing of Agricultural, Food and Fish Products.
Furthermore, this centralization of barrel sales ensures complete
traceability of the syrup, from the maple farm to the first buyer. For
comparison, in the United States the 15 maple-producing states have 15 different
sets of regulations, and inspection is neither systematic nor mandatory.
Canada has the ability to maintain its global position and its competitive
advantage through its efforts to qualify the product, to optimize its production
processes and create added value, while guaranteeing world-class quality
The following point may address the concerns Mr. Scarlett expressed earlier
regarding the protection of the designation of products, the purity of products.
While there are regulations in Canada and Quebec that protect the origin of pure
maple products, this is unfortunately not the case in the majority of the 52
countries where maple products are exported.
It is vital that Canada, in cooperation with the United States, does what it
takes to protect the designation of maple products to prevent substitute or
imitation products from soiling the reputation of authentic products. During
multinational trade agreements or any other cross-border initiative, this
concern should be a priority. The long-term impact and effects of the
innovations in the maple industry are at stake.
In the United States for instance, maple syrup is among the five most
imitated food products, and there is reason to believe the same is probably true
in other countries as well. Certain producers dilute the product or replace it
with less expensive substitutes. The United States is aware of this issue.
Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Susan Collins of Maine introduced a bill
in the U.S. Senate called the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement
(MAPLE) Act, which if adopted will penalize the fraudulent sale of maple syrup
with a maximum of five years in prison.
For its part, Canada should also demonstrate the importance of preserving the
reputation of the product most closely tied to the Canadian identity, through
clear regulations and penalties designed to deter unlawful behaviour. With this
in mind, it is also vital to develop new technologies for detecting syrup fraud.
These detection methods must be effective, reliable, economical and
The federation has been investing in developing such a method for a number of
years. This innovation is being worked on in cooperation with the researchers of
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Quebec's Centre ACER as well as the
financial support of the Government of Quebec.
The method is on the verge of a large-scale rollout and will be a major asset
for making markets safer and distinguishing rigorously tested maple products.
Concerning the competitiveness and distinction of maple products, Canadian maple
products face two types of competition. The first is competition from other
sweeteners and the second is competition from U.S. maple products.
Maple products have a leg up on the other sweeteners because they are natural
and offer health benefits. But this favourable position for maple comes with a
sizeable challenge. Innovation is the only way to keep a competitive edge based
on the product's naturalness.
As to the competitiveness of maple businesses, innovation in an increasingly
demanding and diversified market will be key to keeping the Canadian maple value
chain competitive. Canadian maple production is far from having exhausted its
potential. Its growth rests on both putting new taps into operation and
improving the productivity of existing taps.
Indeed, an examination of the forest stands of southeastern Canada shows that
the number of taps in production could triple to meet market demand. The average
productivity of Quebec taps is around 2.5 pounds per tap. Yet many producers
manage to produce twice that amount. There must certainly be room to improve the
productivity of existing sugar bushes.
Plus, recent studies on climate change suggest that in the more southern
regions, such as in several U.S. states, the season for collecting maple sap is
shortening. Nonetheless, production absolutely must continue to be developed in
a lasting way. To achieve this, the applied research evaluating the impact of
the new production technologies on product quality and ecosystem health simply
must be carried out on an ongoing basis.
Similarly, the technology transfer to, and training of producers must enable
the industry to adapt to market needs while ensuring the sustainable development
of the resource. New product knowledge and innovation will require that
equipment be adjusted to optimize maple's active compounds and increase the
process's energy efficiency, which will help boost competitiveness while
reducing the ecological footprint.
The levels of investment and the added value generated will influence the
industry's capacity to adapt. It will be necessary to adapt and create
production techniques according to market needs in order to deliver value-added
All and all, in order for the maple industry to reach its full potential, it
will be necessary to invest more. Like high tech companies, maple is at a
crossroads. But the Canadian maple industry is primarily composed of small- and
mid- sized enterprises that do not, on their own, have the means to invest in
precompetitive research and to take all the steps necessary to take advantage of
More than ever, the collective approach and partnering with the government is
a compelling, modern and effective way to seize the opportunities in the market
and generate broader benefits for Canadian society as a whole.
The Chair: It is my duty to tell you that we must now move on to
Ms. Granger Godbout: I did not think I would make it to the end. Would
you allow me to present the conclusion?
The Chair: Could you go directly to the conclusion?
Ms. Granger Godbout: Certainly.
The Chair: I know that senators have some questions for you.
Ms. Granger Godbout: I will shorten the conclusion a bit and read
In short, in order to realize its full potential and generate even more
positive effects for the entire Canadian economy, the maple industry needs
support in its innovation efforts.
Concretely, in order to stimulate innovation, the state should provide
greater support to precompetitive research, and link the results of this
research to generic promotion activities, two crucial fields where businesses
struggle to invest because the benefits are generally too removed from their
Secondly, the state should support production and processing businesses as
they adapt their production methods to respond to changing market expectations
and to boost their competitiveness. In general, the state should encourage
collective, coherent innovation efforts.
It should enable the decompartmentalization of research areas and the
contribution of the greatest experts in their field, even if they sometimes must
be recruited outside our borders. And in particular, the state should build on
its flagship products, such as maple, to help expand the influence of all
Canadian products. Finally, it is absolutely imperative to find the means to
protect the designation of maple products through strong regulations, commercial
agreements, standards and quality control, to help prevent fake or low quality
products from damaging the reputation of pure maple products and wiping out any
efforts to innovate or promote.
The Chair: Ms. Granger Godbout and Ms. Béland, Mr. Poitras and Mr.
Scarlet, thank you for your presentations. We will now proceed to questions,
beginning with Senator Rivard.
Senator Rivard: I had written down a question before hearing your
presentations, because I wanted you to give me some examples of innovation. I
must say that you have answered my question to the fullest extent. To my mind,
innovation was limited to syrup, pulled sugar, and soft or hard maple sugar, and
I now see that I am 20 years behind the times.
I remember that some 10 years ago, your industry was experiencing a crisis. I
remember seeing millions of gallons of maple syrup stored along Highway 20.
How is it that today your production meets consumption and export demand? How
did this miracle come to pass?
Ms. Granger Godbout: With all due respect, I would say that there are
no miracles. Producers showed a great deal of courage and made some difficult
decisions. In 2002, they set up a centralized sales agency, and later, in 2003
and 2004, they brought in production quotas, which reined in the somewhat
unrestrained growth in production.
The agency's centralizing of sales allowed it to channel things and create
tools to develop markets. This had an overall synergistic effect that broadened
markets and controlled production growth, and thus stabilized conditions.
You referred to a surplus of maple syrup 10 years ago in
Saint-Louis-de-Blandford. It is my pleasure to tell you that there is some syrup
left in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, which is very good news. In 2005, the
inventory was equivalent to a complete crop. Two years later, because of the
development of markets and also because of the weather, a factor that must be
taken into account as one of the realities of production, there was no inventory
left. The year 2008-09 was very difficult. Inventories were completely depleted.
That situation was of great concern to promoters, premiums had to be paid, and
prices flared up to some extent. The price is negotiated collectively.
This spike in the price of maple products due to a shortage of syrup is a
problem no one wants to experience again. To develop over the long term, we need
stability and security of supply. Today we talk about a strategic reserve.
We asked for actuarial studies to be done, and they allowed us to define some
targets. We estimate that 40 million pounds is an acceptable target to control
the risk of inventory shortages.
Some reserves have been accumulating over the past three years, which is a
good thing. We have now reached 37 million pounds. The businesses that want to
develop thus have supply security. No price variations will destabilize the
market. For processors, buyers, exporters, producers and everyone else, even
those who provide inputs, that is those who sell tubing and equipment, sector
stability is a fundamental condition for development. For the producer
organization, these were not easy decisions to make.
Senator Rivard: How many years will maple syrup stored in barrels
maintain its quality and remain edible?
Ms. Granger Godbout: I was discussing this with some people this
morning who told me that at Laval University, during some renovations to the
Vachon building, they found 50-year-old maple syrup. The team from the maple
syrup inspection laboratory opened some of these tins and found that even after
50 years, if the packaging is properly done and the contents are airtight, the
syrup is still very good.
Senator Rivard: It is like wine.
Senator Robichaud: My mouth is watering because I do like maple syrup.
I also like honey. My first question or comment is for Mr. Scarlett. In New
Brunswick, in my region in particular, several blueberry producers depend
enormously on bees to ensure their production. You mentioned something that is
affecting bees; does this cause a problem in the availability of bees for
Mr. Scarlett: Certainly, we need to ensure healthy stock and recognize
that the pollination industry in the blueberry sector in New Brunswick and B.C.
are very important.
Senator Robichaud: In Nova Scotia as well.
Mr. Scarlett: Yes, and GM canola in the Prairies too. The pollination
component of our sector is becoming increasingly important. In agriculture we
have not begun to realize how important the role of bees is in the pollination
process. We face health threats, and so we are developing bee bio-security plans
and trying to put best management practices in place for beekeepers. The health
threats are out there right now. Some of you may have heard of Colony Collapse
Disorder, which the American industry has experienced, as have some other
countries. We have not experienced that in Canada so much because we have been
able to address some of those things. We still need to work harder at it because
it is a threat. If we are not able to ensure healthy stock, the blueberry
industry is in jeopardy and the canola industry is in jeopardy and a number of
other industries will fall by the wayside.
Senator Robichaud: Are you satisfied with the efforts being made in
research to prevent that?
Mr. Scarlett: Certainly, research is being done. You cannot fault the
research being done here in Canada to address what we experience here. The
difficulty we have is with areas like the CFIA. Over the course of the last five
years, we have had to rely more on imported bees to keep our numbers up here to
do the job we need to do. As we import, we have to have good-quality, safe and
healthy stock. We have experienced some difficulties with CFIA not being able to
handle this influx of business. It really is a question of whether CFIA can
increase its resources. Every sector in agriculture has a problem with CFIA
trying to increase its resources. Key to this would be this committee placing
some kind of emphasis on designating that component, which is critical for our
international imports, trades, exports. The key is that resource.
Senator Robichaud: This is very well noted, Mr. Scarlett.
Mr. Poitras, Ms. Béland and Ms. Granger Godbout, you talked at some length
about the benefits of maple. Could you tell me a bit more about it, because I
would like to eat more of it.
Ms. Béland: There are very good reasons to eat maple products.
Firstly, the initial research showed that maple products contain about five
minerals and vitamins, among these zinc, riboflavin, calcium, potassium and
manganese, in very interesting concentrations. We are talking about quantities
that sometimes represent 100 per cent of the daily recommended value for some
vitamins and minerals.
These data sparked our interest and we went further. We then discovered over
the years that the product also contains an important quantity of polyphenols.
To date, we have discovered 55 polyphenols, five of which are exclusive to maple
and were never identified in nature before this research. According to current
research, these polyphenols seem to have some very interesting anti-cancer,
anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties. We are not talking either about
having to drink three gallons of maple syrup in order to benefit from those
properties. Consequently, in choosing sweetening agents, it may be preferable to
choose maple products for cooking or when purchasing a processed sweetened food
Recent nutrigenomics research has shown that maple products improve liver
health in animals. The liver is a poorly understood organ, but it is at the root
of several diseases. Some types of diabetes start with the liver.
This year, we are managing 17 research projects at the federation. Since
2007, we have had about 40. I will spare you the list of all of our discoveries.
Overall, the results have led us to conclude that maple products can, in
their extracted form, have specific implications, among others, for diabetes.
Several molecules were identified, among these the ABA molecule. Various
mechanisms have been discovered.
This is a very promising avenue. Naturally, some public relations work is
being done, as was the case for blueberries and canola. This has allowed us to
generate coverage from the world press. The latest and most important took place
in April of this year. Just because of the news we generated, we got global
coverage to the tune of half a billion copies. And so the research being done
allows both to increase the sale of maple syrup in the short term, and also to
identify very high value-added potential applications, among others, in the
natural health product sectors, through the use of extracts.
Finally, to summarize very quickly, maple extract is a powder with no sugar
or water. That is what we have found.
Senator Robichaud: I have a final question. Are enough efforts being
made to inform physicians, pharmacists and other professionals of the benefits
that we could reap from the product, which is a rather complete supplement that
would make it possible to avoid taking a handful of pills?
Ms. Béland: Additional research should be done on maple products,
including maple extract, in order to confirm the benefits for animals and,
ultimately, for human beings. We really have momentum on our side.
We have protected these uses with patents so that the Canadian maple industry
can have a competitive edge. In order to maintain this edge, we must continue to
make investments in order to gain a better understanding and to have additional
evidence before approaching doctors and pharmacists. We have worked very hard to
make research for evidence possible, financially and otherwise.
Mr. Poitras: Research on maple syrup is done in three ways. There is
the North American Council, the International Institute and the Canadian Issue
When we talk about the North American Council, we are talking about the
research being done on the ground, on the trees, the buds, the equipment, and so
on. The International Institute, which I am the vice-president of, does targeted
research on things like the new grades we have established and have just
submitted to the government. Its mission is to protect the integrity of maple
syrup. If there are people making fake syrup, the institute can do something
about it; in fact, someone was taken to court.
When we talk about scientific research for innovation, about the future of
our syrup in terms of health and commercial activity, it is the Canadian Issue
Table that makes a difference in the world. That is where the research is being
done, where requests are made and where, together with Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada, we can do the work we need to do for the type of scientific research
that will be beneficial for people's health.
The U.S. does not have that. Only Canada does. And it is being done at the
Canadian Issue Table. I think it is crucial that we make that distinction when
we talk about research. When we talk about the Canadian Issue Table, that is
where the scientific research takes place. We have to keep doing that work
because there are a whole lot of things we can do with maple sap in addition to
Senator Robichaud: Thank you.
Senator Plett: Thank you all for coming out. Like my colleague Senator
Robichaud, I have become hungry. I am not sure what I would like to eat right
now; pancakes with syrup or toast with honey. Perhaps I could drink some of the
maple alcohol. Maybe over the next while we can partake in a little of all of
I am from Manitoba. Since we do not have a lot of maple syrup there, I will
direct my questions to Mr. Scarlett. We have a lot of bees in Manitoba. As a
matter of fact, there are a lot of them not far from where I live. However, the
only experience I have ever had with bees is when they have stung me, which is
I would like to talk about the fluctuations in the amount of honey produced.
They are significant. Our notes from the Library of Parliament do not exactly
match yours, but I am sure yours are correct. In 2002, according to our notes,
you produced about $160 million worth of honey. That went down to $63 million in
2005, and then in 2009, according to your numbers, it went back up to $126
million, and in 2008 it was around $100 million. It is all over the map. Could
you explain some of the reasons for that?
Mr. Scarlett: Certainly. One of the reasons is winter losses and being
able to recover. If, for example, Alberta experienced a 30 per cent loss of its
hives, that would have a dramatic impact on the amount of honey produced in the
country. The same is true for Manitoba and Saskatchewan because they have such a
large percentage of the commercial operations. If the winter losses in a
particular region are high, it has a big impact.
We have also seen variations in honey prices. There are now larger crops in
Argentina. We have seen an influx of Chinese honey, fake honey, coming into
markets. In fact, there is a concerted effort in the United States to prevent
the importation of Chinese honey, because it is not really honey by definition.
There are a number of things such as that that impact price and quantity.
Senator Plett: Do we have enough bees to supply Japan and China with a
significant amount of honey? I very much appreciate where you are going with
this report, but do we have the capability to increase?
You said that you would be pleased to elaborate on some of the EU problems.
When can we expect a decision, and how will that impact the $42 million worth of
trade to the U.S? Are we in a position to deal with that?
Mr. Scarlett: The industry can expand. It could easily double in size.
Our problem is being able to have healthy stock either produced domestically or
through importation, and it has to come in a timely fashion.
It is different in Quebec and Ontario than in the Prairies and the Okanagan.
In the East spring occurs in a different season and the crops are different. The
stock bees have to come in at the time the crops need to be pollinated and they
have to generate honey. We have a little bit of a time lag. We also have a bit
of a problem in Canada in getting the production internally, that is, creating
our own queens and our own stock. That is just because of the problems of trying
to reproduce bees in our winter climate. That is a problem, but we have the
space, land and plants necessary if we were able to access as many bees as we
Senator Plett: That is a pretty big ``if.'' If we were to make deals
with countries like Japan and China, we would need to be able to give
guarantees. I am hearing that, well, we hope we will have the stock that we need
when we need it.
Mr. Scarlett: The last five years have created a major challenge for
the beekeeping industry in Canada as a result of winter losses. Obtaining that
stock domestically or through import has created a significant problem for
beekeepers. Certainly, the CFIA has been very good at helping out in the
importation of bees, but if these winter losses continue and we are not able to
address some of the health issues that I identified, it may be a problem. We may
need to expand our horizons. Recently, we have gone into agreements with Chile
for the importation of bees. The problem is trying to import the bees during the
season when we need them. We have to find someone who exports at the same time
that we need to import; and not many countries match up.
Senator Plett: On the problems with the EU, are you expecting a
decision shortly? You do not need to elaborate.
Mr. Scarlett: Decisions out of the EU do not happen quickly.
Senator Plett: Fair enough. One last question if I may. When my boys
were young, I think my wife regularly gave them honey, even before the age of
one year. Has Health Canada changed their mind on that or are they still telling
us not to feed honey to children under the age of one?
Mr. Scarlett: It is a health issue of honey botulism. If you feed
honey to children under the age of one year, they could conceivably get
Senator Plett: What alcohol is made from maple? Is that good for my
liver as well?
Ms. Béland: Actually, there are a number of maple alcohol producers. I
know some in the province of Quebec. I believe there are some in some other
provinces. There is a kind of sparkling wine, some aperitifs, and a sort of
maple Baileys, which is getting a lot of attention here in Quebec and around the
Senator Plett: I am looking forward to trying it.
Mr. Poitras: The trick with that is to take your scotch or rye and put
a teaspoon of maple syrup in it; and that is what you have.
Senator Mahovlich: I will address the bee problem. How many types of
bees do we have in Canada? Are they high- quality bees?
Mr. Scarlett: Naturally?
Senator Mahovlich: Yes, naturally.
Mr. Scarlett: I could not tell you exactly, but it is over 100.
Senator Mahovlich: A hundred different types of bees.
Mr. Scarlett: Hundreds, but we do not know exactly.
Senator Mahovlich: Up in Timmins we have blueberries. This is a good
bee, but we do not know.
Mr. Scarlett: I do not know the total number of varieties of bees. We
look after a European honey bee. That is what the honey industry has. It is not
a native bee; it is imported.
Senator Mahovlich: We import this honey bee.
Mr. Scarlett: Yes.
Senator Mahovlich: Is the bee from Chile a quality bee?
Mr. Scarlett: Yes.
Senator Mahovlich: What about the killer bee?
Mr. Scarlett: We work with the CFIA on the bio-security plan. They do
genetic testing of all our imports from California for Africanized bees.
Senator Mahovlich: I have gone into restaurants where they serve
artificial syrup. Are you in competition with those manufacturers, or is this a
problem? Many quality restaurants serve artificial syrup.
Mr. Poitras: Most of them serve it. The problem is that many
restaurants do not want maple syrup because it is too expensive. Usually maple
syrup is known as a high-end product, but more and more restaurants, especially
in Quebec, are buying and offering maple syrup. We have restaurants in New
Brunswick that are starting to add a few pennies to prices to be able to offer
maple syrup. That is an education. More and more people are asking for the real
Senator Mahovlich: I would like to poor a little syrup in my coffee
instead of sugar. My wife questions me on that. Is it that much more expensive?
Senator Plett: You can afford it, senator.
Senator Mahovlich: At my age, I think it is time.
Ms. Béland: Yes, actually, it is a problem in Quebec. But I would also
say that it is an international problem. In addition, people who are not very
familiar with maple syrup think they are having real maple syrup. We have some
indicators — we have carried out some polls in the U.S. — that have led to the
conclusion that 50 per cent of American consumers of maple syrup believe that
they are using maple syrup when in fact they are not. They are using ``pole
syrup,'' as we call it in Quebec, and they believe they are using maple syrup.
There is a lot of educating to do.
But the fact that, in Quebec and perhaps elsewhere in Canada, some
restaurants say ``maple syrup'' when they do not serve maple syrup requires us
to invest in promoting taste education, even here at home. So it really is a
Ms. Granger Godbout: I would simply like to add that another challenge
in this situation is that there is really no definition for maple syrup. I heard
Mr. Scarlett talk earlier about the definition of honey; we understand that
there is a definition for honey in the Codex Alimentarius, for example. There is
a good basis for debate and for protection. Maple syrup does not have that.
Senator Mahovlich: When they used to tap trees, I remember they hung a
bucket on a spigot. Is that still the way we do it? I have a cabin up north
where I see the long white poles hanging on the trees. Is that new?
Mr. Poitras: The bucket is still used but the long white things are
new. Some people tap in the old style with newer plastic ones and different
types. If you have 178,000 taps, you cannot afford the time to use buckets, so
you use the tubing. Anyone who has 50 to 100 taps can use the buckets. It is the
old way of doing things, and there is nothing wrong with it.
Senator Robichaud: Can you not prevent restaurant owners from
advertising maple syrup when what they are serving is not maple syrup?
Ms. Granger Godbout: It is what they call a ``bait and switch''; at
that point, it becomes misleading advertising. If they advertise a product and
they offer something else, then there is a problem and you can exercise some
control through regulations. Now, if they choose to offer syrup mixed with other
sweetening agents, it is their choice as a business to offer syrup that is
perhaps less interesting.
Senator Eaton: I wanted to give an example that goes back a number of
years, but perhaps you are too young to remember.
You are certainly not too young, senators, to remember the case when
California tried to call their sparkling white wine ``champagne.'' French
champagnes contested that. As I remember, they won. California cannot call their
sparkling wine champagne.
I just came back from Normandy, France. One day at breakfast, I saw a small
bottle of maple syrup on the table. I asked whether it was real maple syrup and,
contrary to what I was told, it was not.
Why do you not take legal action in order to regulate the composition of real
maple syrup, the way champagne producers did a number of years ago with the
people in California?
Ms. Béland: That is a very good observation. It really is something
that the federation should address. This is extremely worrisome for the Canadian
industry and for the U.S. Eventually, China might start to make fake syrup with
water, colouring agents and sugar, and then sell the product on international
One of the mandates of the federation, in solidarity with the industry, is to
be able to register maple syrup either in the Codex or with the WTO, but in
order to do so, the government needs to show some support or make a commitment,
among other things, to respect the designation.
Senator Eaton: Would a bill like the one currently before the American
Senate help you or not? Or would it be a distraction?
Ms. Granger Godbout: The idea behind it is quite relevant, but we now
have to ask ourselves what type of control they are going to exert, what type of
inspection they will have to do. If they do a check every two years, it will not
necessarily have the same impact. I would say that the preferred way of doing
things is rather to inspect all the drums and establish the grades. Earlier I
said that there is a screening method that is just in the process of being
Senator Eaton: Yes, but that does not solve your problem. If you are
exporting 80 per cent of maple syrup, there are still people in Europe or Asia
who call things maple syrup, maple flavour.
Ms. Granger Godbout: You are absolutely right. This will solve the
problem for the domestic market; it is a whole different problem outside the
country, which could be mainly solved through trade agreements.
Senator Eaton: What if you can register your trademark as champagne
Ms. Granger Godbout: There is a great deal of specific work to be done
on this. It may be a mountain but it is worth climbing.
Senator Eaton: If we can support you in our report, we will.
Ms. Granger Godbout: Great.
Mr. Scarlett, I was in Europe last week. The papers were filled with what EU
wanted to do with honey. It made me laugh over breakfast when they said you will
have to label it and put ``pollen.'' What else is honey if not pollen? Are they
not requiring reassurances that the honey in the bottle has not been
contaminated by GM crops that might be growing alongside? For instance, if you
have a crop of canola, your honeybees cannot be near the fields of canola? I am
thinking of Northern Alberta specifically.
Mr. Scarlett: What the court decision was is that if there is
genetically modified pollen in the honey.
Senator Eaton: How do you know that?
Mr. Scarlett: They test. The reason the court decision came about was
actually as a result of a German beekeeper who tested his own honey. It was
beside a field in Bavaria, where they were doing GM corn or another GM crop. In
fact, right now, the only place that does GM testing is in Germany.
Senator Eaton: Do you feel that will effectively close the doors to
Mr. Scarlett: It has already closed the doors to Canadian honey.
Senator Eaton: Is Europe protecting their own beekeepers by doing
this? Is this an excuse to put up a wall or non- tariff barrier?
Mr. Scarlett: It is not all of Europe, because there are countries
within the EU that grow GMO crops. We are caught in the backlash of Germany,
which is certainly the leader in preventing GM products into the food chain. Not
all European countries are there, but Germany is the one that is leading the
Senator Eaton: Is there anything you can do? In the maple syrup
industry, do you worry that they will turn around and say, ``Trees cannot be
contaminated by GM?'' You do not worry about the labelling?
Mr. Poitras: No. I wanted to complete your thought about the
legislation we are talking about and also to inform you that when the
International Maple Syrup Institute finds, or is told of, a defective syrup that
has been played with, we have the capability to have it tested. We have a lab in
Chicago and that is all they do. If we find this it is a fake, we can have
prosecution. We are working right now with a Canadian research facility to do
the same thing. The problem is that if you take a barrel of maple syrup and you
export it as a barrel, you do not know what they will do with it at the other
Senator Eaton: Why can you not do what the French champagne people
did? In other words, if something is called maple syrup, it has to be maple
syrup. You could determine what the contents of maple syrup are. I know there
are different grades, because I used to make maple syrup. I know there is
different sugar content. Is there not a way of getting your mark?
Mr. Poitras: There could be, but you need legislation for that. We do
not have that.
Senator Eaton: You are lucky that you are sitting here in a Senate
Mr. Poitras: That is what I am saying. Your idea of legislation would
be very helpful.
Senator Eaton: You should send something to Senator Mockler and we can
all discuss how we could help you with any legislation.
Mr. Scarlett, is there anything we can do for you in this report?
Mr. Scarlett: Given the fact that it is a judicial decision in the EU,
right now I think there is some negotiation on free trade with the EU. However,
I have a sneaking suspicion that it will not include genetically modified foods
in that agreement.
Senator Eaton: Are you more excited by the possibility that we might
get a chair at the TPP?
Mr. Scarlett: Yes. Negotiations with Europe have always been extremely
difficult, and they are slow. Any time we are able to urge them along into the
more progressive agricultural practices that Canada and North America have will
turn out beneficial to our industry.
Senator Duffy: Mr. Scarlett, we are talking about international trade
in honey and honeybees. Why is there a sign at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick
border saying that New Brunswick bees are not allowed in Nova Scotia? Have we
got interprovincial barriers to trade in honey products and bees?
Mr. Scarlett: Yes. Each province has their own individual bee acts
that designate how they handle bees.
Senator Duffy: In Cumberland County, you have the Bragg family
enterprise, which is a huge blueberry operation. I think it is called Oxford
Frozen Foods. I am told they have great difficulty getting enough bees to
pollinate their blueberry crops and they have acres and acres. Someone told me
it was all because of this law. Can you give me some history of that?
Then I want to ask you about honeybees in P.E.I. I have a commercial to do in
Mr. Scarlett: As I mentioned, each province handles their —
Senator Duffy: Is that from a bygone era when there were different
regional health problems or whatever?
Mr. Scarlett: It is in a way. It is not all that much different than
how cattle were handled by the provinces not that long ago. There was not much
interprovincial transfer of cattle. I am sure there are other commodities that
were handled in the same way.
You have to remember that bees are considered a live animal and we are in
agriculture, which is a joint jurisdiction. You are right; there is some
historical precedent that transfers do not occur.
Senator Duffy: Would it make your industry more efficient if some of
those interprovincial barriers were eliminated and we had a national standard,
if government got out of the way?
Mr. Scarlett: Some beekeepers think so and some do not. There is
certainly not unanimity within the industry.
Senator Duffy: I am sure you are aware of the honeybee operations in
P.E.I. To me, this is the wave of the future. A lot of people think that with
the economy the way it is we are headed for a bad place in a handcart. Yet, a
small company based in P.E.I., Honibe, has won international awards. Is this a
unique situation, or do you see this being replicated in rural areas all over
Mr. Scarlett: I certainly see many opportunities for replication, not
only in the honey industry but also I would suspect in other agricultural
industries as well.
Senator Duffy: They use the Honibe product in health supplements. Many
people think that anything related to honey is not all that healthy, and the
same with maple syrup. However, you are telling me that, used wisely and
properly, it is a good thing.
Mr. Scarlett: I certainly did not want to impose on all the health
benefits that maple syrup may have, but I think you could find an equal list for
Senator Duffy: Mr. Scarlett, we were talking about Europe and all the
financial difficulties there. Is there any sign that the international financial
situation will cause some people to lower their barriers, or will it in fact be
more difficult in that as people see the world economy in difficult straits they
will be more protectionist rather than less?
Mr. Scarlett: We have had discussions on that. Germany is one of the
largest importers of honey in the world. Their stocks will deplete, so they will
have to find something or change the rules. There is a growing belief that it
will result in the EU having to re-examine how it looks at genetically modified
foods. Again, it may not occur overnight, but along with the internal economic
pressures and shortages it will create an environment where something beneficial
Ms. Granger Godbout: If I may, as Senator Eaton suggested, since we
are before a committee of senators; we were talking about fake maple syrup
earlier. I would like to voice a concern. If I am not mistaken, a regulatory
amendment has recently been made to the maple products regulations in the
Canada Gazette of October 12, meaning that the definition of adulterated or
fake products has been completely removed from the regulations. I can tell you
right off the bat that there was no explanation as to why this definition had
been removed. We were told that it simply had to do with having fewer
regulations and that this definition had been removed from other equivalent
regulations. I am just pointing out that the signal being sent to the industry
may appear a bit odd.
From our point of view, when we saw that the definition of adulterated
products had been removed, the signal that we thought — perhaps misguidedly — we
were getting was that it was something the regulations were no longer concerned
with and that there were no regulations for that anymore. That was a reason for
concern. From where we were standing, let me tell you that we were really
Ms. Béland: Let me just say something else about the designation of
maple products. The 100-per-cent maple syrup is the real syrup and it is
something the federation has been looking into for nearly two years in other
countries. One of our concerns stems from the Canadian government as a whole,
especially in relation to the European Union. Some designations here are not
necessarily respected. We know those are irritants for the European Union, be it
prosciutto or food products that have an AOC — a registered designation of
origin — and with which we are taking some liberty here. Under those
circumstances, we have undertaken this extensive work, which requires a
constructive approach in the long run. At the same time, I have to ask, if the
current regulations were applied, what lever would we really have, given that,
in Canada, we ignore the AOC of some European products? This is just one of our
Senator Eaton: I do not think that should stop you. It would also help
us a great deal if you could give us a few pages with suggestions on what we
could put in our report in terms of inspection and registering a trademark
saying ``maple syrup made in Canada''.
The Chair: Senator Robichaud, another question?
Senator Robichaud: Yes. When the definition of adulterated products
was removed from the regulations, was that done without consulting producers?
Would you like to have the definition back in the regulations? That could be one
of your recommendations, if you would like.
Ms. Granger Godbout: Well, if the original definition is added back
right now, I cannot really answer, but essentially yes. It would be absolutely
appropriate to ask that the maple syrup regulations include provisions that make
it possible to control, to prohibit, to take action and to deter people from
adulterating maple syrup.
Senator Robichaud: I was listening to an episode of La semaine
verte, which used to be on Radio-Canada, and they were talking about maple
trees. At one point, they were talking about the dieback of maple trees. Is that
still a problem? Has it been solved? Are we sufficiently informed to keep it
under control? Could it no longer be a problem because there is less acid rain?
Mr. Poitras: In New Brunswick, we have examined the situation with the
assistance of the Canadian Forest Service and the Department of Natural
Resources. There was this whole story about how climate change was going to
destroy our maple trees, and so on. There was even a young scientist who took
great pleasure in instilling fear in us through the paper he wrote for
The information we got from those two levels is that they see no problems at
the moment and that the previous problems are no longer there. They have
reassured us that they want to continue monitoring the situation regularly to
make sure that nothing happens. We are safe at the moment.
Ms. Granger Godbout: To expand on that, there has in fact been less
talk about that problem. Maple ecosystems have an amazing ability to adapt. But
a great deal of work and research projects are still being done on ecosystem
dynamics. As a result, a lot more knowledge is available on maintaining maple
trees, liming maple trees, and the importance of assessing the ecosystem as a
whole. It is a science that is being developed.
As for dieback as such, it is not so much a problem that we can completely
eliminate as it is a part of the dynamics of managing an ecosystem.
Senator Robichaud: I have maples in my yard and they all have patches
of black fungus. Do sugar maples get that too? Because you see some maples
without patches while, on others, it has become a real plague, with the leaves
withering and drying up. Is there any research into that? Could it become a
Mr. Poitras: There is a serious answer and a funny one. As I see it,
it comes down to the same thing: we have no research centre at our disposal like
the one in Saint-Hyacinthe, which is a Canadian research centre and a very good
one at that. When we asked ourselves the question, the kids who work for me told
me that you will see the problem on some maples, but ours in New Brunswick do
not have that disease. I do not know what kind of maple tree you have. I can
always send one of the guys out to take a look at your tree and say whether it
is diseased or not. But occasionally, maples can get diseased, for sure.
Senator Robichaud: All the maples in the area are like that. I see
some here on the hill that have the same patches.
Ms. Granger Godbout: I am not a forestry engineer, but I have maples
with patches on their leaves too. I went to see our president, who is a maple
grower, and asked him what the problem was. He told me that it depended on the
kind of maple and that, sometimes, the maples used for landscaping were not the
same kind and may well be more sensitive.
Like city people are more sensitive. That is the funny answer.
Senator Robichaud: They are lucky that they left the city for the
Senator Eaton: Mr. Scarlett, something we learned out of the last
report we did on forestry was that the steel and concrete industry was very good
about going into architectural and engineering schools and teaching them about
new ways of using their product, whereas the forestry industry was not.
When you were talking about a future, that it is hard to get people to come
to work in the industry, do you go into agricultural colleges or trade schools?
It would seem a hard-working life but a very nice way of life if you want to
live on the land. Do you do things like that to promote yourselves?
Mr. Scarlett: Of course, there is some work at University of Guelph,
which has a strong apiary branch to it, and Laval has done work and University
of Manitoba. As I mentioned, they have started a course again back at Grande
Prairie Regional College. There is work. It is not so much though on the
training of being a labourer. Really what we are looking at is trying to get
Senator Eaton: One quick question to all of you: Do you market
yourselves? I know it is always a question of money, but with Canadians worried
about diabetes and being overweight, do you get out there in supermarkets and
trade fairs and tell people how good your product is? Do I see ads on television
about how healthy honey is for children on our oatmeal or maple syrup on their
oatmeal every morning? Do we see those kinds of promotions done in schools? Do
you go into schools and tell them it is much better to have maple syrup and
honey than sugar? Canadians are not good at marketing.
Mr. Scarlett: We have educational packages for teachers available on
our website. If we are talking advertising on television, that is just too
expensive for the industry to do.
Mr. Poitras: As far as New Brunswick is concerned, we do. I left a
copy of each for you to look at. We have had a TV campaign for the last two
years. As long as we can get the funds, we will continue.
We have right now on the books — and this is new; it will be released
probably in January — a storybook for kids from the age of kindergarten to age
4, because we have a survey that proves that this will come back to the house.
The others are thrown away, but this will come back to the house. This is
presently being written and will be released in January. That is the last
project we have worked on.
As for recipe books, we have had one in France. This is the New Brunswick
Senator Eaton: Are these handed out free in supermarkets?
Mr. Poitras: Those are sold. The other ones are handed out free, and
the children's book will be sold.
Senator Eaton: Do you do that kind of thing, Mr. Scarlett?
Mr. Scarlett: Some, but probably not nearly as much.
Mr. Poitras: We do that but we have done nothing compared to Quebec.
Senator Eaton: Do you do the same thing, ladies?
Ms. Béland: That is really the reason for the innovation here,
so we have really focused our information efforts on the innovation. For us,
innovation and promotion are intimately linked, actually.
Senator Eaton: That is why I asked the question.
Ms. Béland: We have a whole program. We are very lucky, at home and
abroad: maple products get sympathetic press coverage. Since we really do not
have a lot of cash, we use that sympathetic coverage to our advantage. For
example, as I mentioned earlier, when our research projects give us enough
material for a media release, we send one out. We have been using that strategy
for about five years.
That is why it is very important to have an international network of people
doing solid research, both here and abroad. In both the United States or in
Japan, our main markets, the media will carry information from their own
researchers. That is why we have set up an innovation system that brings
researchers together in the markets where we do generic promotion. We send
students from here to learn from them. That is by way of a comment.
Our operation is huge, and, as I said earlier, our last news story, in April,
was seen by 500 million people around the world. It really works for us.
Another method we use, basically in Japan through Agriculture Canada's
Agrimarketing program and in Quebec with the federation's own funds, is to have
advertising campaigns for children, observing the regulatory standards, of
course. We send out booklets of recipes, about a million copies in Quebec, three
or four times a year. Here in Quebec, people love pancakes; not as much as
before, but there are still a lot of pancakes.
So we are investing in seminars for chefs and we have the Maple Gourmet Road.
We should have another meeting.
The Chair: Honourable Senators, I am sure there will be other
I am asking the witnesses, as you will follow our study on agriculture, if
you feel that you want to add comments or recommendations, as some senators have
mentioned, please feel free to do it.
In conclusion, to people listening to us on the web, Canada has over 7,000
beekeepers and Canada is the world's largest maple producer.
The Chair: Quebec is definitely the leader and we would like to
Mr. Poitras, you have the largest maple syrup producer in New Brunswick, in
addition to having the largest organic maple syrup producer, if the report you
showed us is accurate, as you said.