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Producers tap into sweet opportunities. (Sault Ste Marie).

Dave Matthews is busy at this time of year. It is maple syrup time and when he and his wife Audrey are not tapping the trees they are welcoming grade school classes to their farm located five miles west of Powassan.

They expect to make approximately 12,000 litres of syrup this year, more than five times the amount brought in before.

"Right now we are half way through and we have 1,800 four-litre units," Dave Matthews says.

They have increased their tapping opportunity with funding from the North Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. five years ago.

"There are about 10,000 to 12,000 trees representing 15,000 taps," Dave Matthews explains.

In previous years they have sold the syrup to Delta Foods and Jakemans.

"They turnaround and package it again and sell it." Audrey Matthews says. "It goes everywhere. Personally lam not interested in shipping - 15,000 taps is enough."

However, other larger syrup processing farms are selling to larger companies across the border. Gilbertson Enterprises, located on St. Joseph's Island, is a family owned syrup business, which exports over 50 per cent of their syrup.

"We export to Michigan and Wisconsin; there is more of a demand on our syrup there," owner Brent Gilbertson says.

So far he says they have completed 33 per cent of their production.

"We expect to get 22,000 litres of syrup at a minimum, and expect a litre for every tap."

Gilbertson is considering expanding his business on St. Joseph Island.

"A lot depends on the economy," he says. "Syrup is not a necessity, it's more a luxury (product)."

For now maintaining and repairing equipment is a priority.

Currently without expansion, Gilbertson is running at 100 per cent capacity with six to eight employees.

In a recent publication put out by the Community and Economic Development and Resource, Canada is accountable for 80 per cent of the world production of maple syrup. Sales in 1999 were valued at $110.3 million and product was delivered to more than 20 countries. By 2003 the Canadian maple industry plans on increasing its exports to $200 million.
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Title Annotation:maple syrup
Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:353
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