MAINE - Maine's maple syrup production rose a whopping 13 percent this past season, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Total production for the spring of 2006 was 300,000 gallons, compared with 265,000 gallons last year.
"This is good news," Agriculture Commissioner Seth Bradstreet said Wednesday.
Large increases in yield as well as additional taps set in many states - 15,000 more just in Maine - led to this year's overall national increase of 17 percent.
Maine is the country's second largest syrup producer behind Vermont, and the industry pumps more than $6 million annually into Maine's economy.
"It was good and bad depending on which part of the state you were in," Jeremy Steeves, secretary of the Maine Maple Producers' Association, said Wednesday. "If you tapped in the southern part of the state, you had an average or below average year. In the northern areas, it was above average. It was purely weather related."
Steeves said that even though the season got an early start this year, there was a very deep frost in the ground because of a lack of snow cover in some areas and that slowed production in those sugarbushes.
According to the USDA statistics, Maine's prices increased only $2.10 per gallon, an average of retail, wholesale and bulk, and that Maine is consistently getting the lowest price of all the other producing states because of the high percentage of bulk sales within the state, mostly from northern Somerset County.
In Maine, 97 percent of all maple syrup sales are bulk, compared with 60 percent in Vermont.
"We'd obviously like that price to go higher," Bradstreet said, "especially since inputs [such as oil and electricity] were higher this year.
"But certainly the increased involvement by the industry with the increased number of taps is a very good thing."
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