In the month of June, I always look forward to giving the annual maple production summary for Ohio. This has always been inconjuntion with the official annual maple syrup report from USDA NASS. There has been much discussion over the years about the accuracy of the NASS report. Good or bad it gave us some ideal of how Ohio production compared to the rest of the maple world. This year, a decision by the USDA to remove Ohio and four other states from the survey came down from Washington. Ohio maple syrup production will not be included in the annual USDA NASS maple syrup production report. As a result, I will do my best to present a guess-estimate of Ohio production for 2019. There will be statistics quoted only brief summaries of what I believe happened between January and April across the state in 2019.
The 2019 maple season in Ohio was complete turnaround from the 2018 season. It was a traditional, almost old fashion type of season. There was very little talk of climate change, no abnormal spikes in temperature followed by predictions of an early end to the season. The early tappers were out right after the first of the year but a couple of late January, early February, Polar Vortex has tempered their enthusiasm. As the season progressed, the cold weather returned. That weather pattern extended through most of February and the majority of producers waited until mid-February to tap. This was much different from the 2018 season, when thermometer top 74 degrees on February 24. The cold returned on the last week of February and ran into the first week of March. March 7th kicked off a series of runs that extended through St Patrick’s Day and beyond. Syrup production was almost non-stop for 20 days. Records were set on many farms and for the most part no one was calling this a poor season. Many producers produced one half gallon of syrup per tap. The extended cold weather and snow kept the season going into the first week of April. The cold weather was also responsible for better than normal sap quality. The only negative in 2019 was Niter. Producers seemed to have a normal to slightly above normal amount of the gummy slime to deal with.
Ohio Producers found out last year, when the sap sugar percentage drop, so does the syrup yield. Unlike last year, when we experienced abnormally low sugar content of 1 to 1.5 percent, this year’s sap sugar was normal to a little above normal, in the 2% to 2.4% range. Even the soft maples were close to 2%. Sap quality was excellent. The cold weather kept microbial growth to a minimum maintaining the sap quality throughout the season. Good quality sap translates into good quality syrup. This was the story across most of Ohio. Producers in the Northeastern portion of the state produced large quantities of Delicate and Amber Syrup. Central Ohio produced the lighter grades early on but also produced some great tasting Dark Robust later in the season. Southern Ohio, producers tapped in late January and early February. Their season extending into the third week of March. The southern part of Ohio may have also experienced a larger percentage of the darker grades. It is refreshing to sit here and report a good season for a change, but this story has both a good news and bad news side. To sum up the season, this was a very good year for Ohio maple syrup production. Using the 2018 production of 90,000 gallons as a benchmark, I would estimate 2019 production at between 100,000 gallons and 125,000 gallons.
This summary comes from conversations with producers, dealers and buyers across the state. Maple equipment dealers report that their sales across the state have been on a steady rise over the last 10 years. There has also been a steady increase in the volume of syrup handled by bulk buyers in the state. The adoption rate of maple technology has been on the rise, allowing producer to double and triple the number of taps in the state. Sugar bushes with 2000 to 4000 taps have become come place around the state. I can safely say that maple syrup production in Ohio, just like other maple producing states, is on the rise. Even though bulk prices have leveled off, retail prices and the demand for pure maple products is strong. As a result, I do not see this upward trend in production reversing in the near future. Over the next few years, you will see pure maple syrup showing up on the labels of many products that originally used traditional sweeteners. This is trend not a fad, driven by consumers wanting healthy all natural food sources. This trend is here to stay and Pure Maple Syrup fits nicely into this market.