On Tuesday, March 18, 2020, the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association (OMSPA) officially announced that Maple Weekend would be cancelled for 2020. The event, which takes place the first weekend of April each year, sees more than 15,000 visitors visit participating sugarbush in Ontario.
“We are very sorry to make this announcement at this time,” said OMSPA president, Brian Bainborough. “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic we want to ensure we are conforming with health advisories and do our part in combating the spread of the virus.”
The 2020 Maple Weekend event was anticipated to be bigger than ever, with more than 80 producers scheduled to take part. The event cancellation and the COVID-19 pandemic’s appearance during prime maple syrup season will be a blow to many maple syrup producers across the province, who rely on direct to consumer sales to sell their products.
As the first agricultural crop of the year, the maple syrup industry has been hit hard by the global pandemic, COVID-19. Each year the interchange between producers and customers is important to maple syrup producers, and specifically the traditional annual family visit to the sugarbush.
Early surveying of OMSPA members has indicated an anticipated 30 per cent decline in sales as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This reduction could have a significant negative impact on small producers, festivals, and pancake houses specifically.
Maple syrup production commenced in most parts of Ontario in early March and is currently in full swing. In spite of the current situation, producers are working hard to continue to produce a safe and quality product that will be used on tables year-round in Ontario.
Bainborough stressed that maple products and syrup will continue to be available at sugarbushes across the province, and encouraged members of the public interested in purchasing maple syrup to reach out to their local sugarbush to make arrangements.
“We are still making maple syrup and many of our members rely on the annual visit to the sugarbush to sell their product,” Bainborough said. “Many of our producers are happy to make arrangements to ensure their product gets into the hands of their loyal customers in a way that’s safe for everyone.”