MACHIAS, Maine — Despite a winter season that just wouldn’t let go, Maine’s maple syrup production was up 14 percent for the 2011 season, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics released Thursday afternoon. Many sugar makers claimed 2011 as a record
“It was a very, very good year,” said Kathy Hopkins, maple syrup specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension at Skowhegan. “The weather really cooperated and it was quite welcome after a poor harvest in 2010.”
Maine produced 360,000 gallons, up 14 percent from last year but less than both New York (564,000 gallons) and Vermont (1.1 million gallons). New York increased its production by 81 percent from 2010, rebounding from very cold conditions a year ago.
Excessive snow depth proved to be an obstacle to many sugar producers at the start of the season but helped extend the season across New England. Some sugar makers in Maine reported collecting sap as late as the first week of May. In addition, temperatures were warm enough during the day and below freezing during nighttime, resulting in consistent and steady sap flows.
Production was up across the country, the USDA reported, up 43 percent, or 2.79 million gallons. About 3 percent more taps were put in this year over last year, with the yield per tap averaging .292 gallons, a 38 percent increase over the 2010 season.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service of the USDA reported that temperatures were favorable for optimal sap flow in all syrup producing states. On average, the season lasted 32 days compared with 23 days last year, even though the season started later in 2011 than in 2010. The earliest sap flow reported was Jan. 10 in New York.
Also, the sugar content of the sap for 2011 was up from the previous year. On average, approximately 43 gallons of sap were required to produce one gallon of syrup. This compares with 46 gallons in 2010 and 43 gallons in 2009.
Prices were depressed for 2010 — down 11 percent.
The average price per gallon of $36.02 reflected a decrease of 50 cents from the 2009 price of $36.52. Information on the average prices for 2011 is not yet available.