Saturday, June 28, 2014

Feds unveil maple syrup grading standards

The federal government has unveiled its proposals for maple syrup standards and, as expected, it is creating consternation and confusion in the industry.

Quebec is signaling that it may challenge the standards as an infringement on its provincial jurisdiction.

Ontario is unlikely to be happy because it introduced its own standards and names a year ago, and required producers to apply drop the “Canada” prefix and use “Ontario” grade whatever.

The Ontario grades, regulated by provincial law, are now either Ontario No. 1 or Ontario Processing Grade.

All maple syrup offered for retail sale must carry one of these two grade names.

Ontario No. 1 is broken into five colours – extra light, light, medium, amber and dark.

The federal colour proposals are Golden Delicate, Amber Rich, Dark Robust and Very Dark Strong.

The federal grading standards are Canada A and Processing Grade.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says 207 businesses will be affected if its proposals are adopted.

Most Ontario maple syrup is sold inside the province where the federal government can’t over-rule provincial legislation. 

But the federal government has jurisdiction over trade among the provinces and both imports and exports. Quebec is a major exporter to the rest of Canada and to other countries.

Its proposals, says Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, will bring Canada in line with U.S. names and standards and therefore facilitate trade.

Ontario producers got a heads up when Paul Bailey spoke at regional producer information meetings during January and February. He is risk identification and management co-ordinator in the Food of Plants Origin in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

In a meeting at St. Jacobs in January, for example, he warned producers they need to apply the “Ontario” prefix to their grading. He also said the federal government was in the process of considering changes to bring federal standards in line with international ones and said it was uncertain what this would mean for the new Ontario regulations.