Plot thickens in Canada's maple syrup raids

Los Angeles

A shipment of maple syrup was given a police escort across Eastern Canada after being seized by detectives investigating the theft of about 10 per cent of Quebec's "strategic syrup reserve".

Sixteen trucks were used to transport 600 barrels of syrup, with a street value of up to £20m, from a wholesaler in the province of New Brunswick to the headquarters of the Quebec Federation of Maple Syrup Producers.

The federation, which represents 10,000 farmers, reported large quantities of syrup missing last month during a routine inventory, finding empty barrels at a warehouse in the town of St-Louis-de-Blandford, near Montreal. It keeps a reserve of 23,500 barrels to protect members from fluctuations in the market value of the commodity. Police have been investigating the apparent theft ever since. On Wednesday, they raided the offices of SK Export at Kedgwick, in the neighbouring province of New Brunswick, and removed a large quantity of syrup, which will be tested to establish whether it is stolen stock.

Etienne St-Pierre, the firm's owner, said he bought the syrup in good faith from a regular supplier and had paperwork to prove it. "[My suppliers] are only small, poor farmers, they're not rich," he said, insisting "they couldn't have transported" such large quantities of stolen syrup. When police arrived with a search warrant, Mr St-Pierre thought they were joking. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has barricaded the building and prevented his staff from returning to work, he said.

An employee of SK Export, Julienne Bossé, claimed the raid was part of an orchestrated effort to drive the firm out of business for being based outside Quebec.

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