The COVID-19 pandemic brought the sugar shack season to a sudden halt in Québec in March 2020. Nearly a year later, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, André Lamontagne, announced several measures aimed at supporting sugar shacks on Thursday.
The Government of Québec is providing financial assistance of $ 50,000 to the “Ma cabane à la maison” web platform project. This initiative of the Association des salles de réception et érablières du Québec (ASEQC) aims to offer Québec families the opportunity to experience, at home, the pleasures of the sugar season by ordering online a traditional ready-made sugar shack meal. Nearly 70 sugar shacks across Québec have pooled their efforts, with the participation of various partners, to create gourmet boxes containing dishes to heat up or ready to cook.
Lamontagne is also adding to the Programme d’appui au développement de l’agriculture et de l’agroalimentaire en région, a regional agricultural development program to help maple sugar businesses that operate a sugar shack to adapt their activities and facilities to the current situation. Over the past year, several of these companies have expressed a desire to change their business model to meal delivery. This measure supports them in this process. Eligible expenses may, for example, result in the modernization of production or processing facilities or even in additional investments in promotion and marketing activities.
In addition, if health standards allow, the government will exceptionally authorize the extension of the meal service by the sugar shacks beyond the period normally allowed. This will allow businesses to remain open later in the season if they wish. This permission will be granted in accordance with the law on the protection of land and agricultural activities.
The government will also allow maple syrup producers who have sugar shack activities to receive assistance for financing their unsold maple syrup inventories. These companies will thus be able to count on liquidity in these difficult times. In the same vein, La Financière agricole du Québec (FADQ) is renewing its support for the notch advance program. For the 2021 season, $ 50 million is available. The objective is also to allow sugar bush operators to obtain liquidity more quickly when they begin their tapping work ion maple trees.
The 2020 maple syrup harvest in Québec reached 175 million pounds, a volume production record for the province.
Investment projects from maple syrup companies serving sugar shack-type meals are eligible for PADAAR under certain conditions:
Financial assistance can cover up to 50% of eligible project expenses and can reach a maximum of $ 50,000 per business. Expenses made since March 12, 2020 are eligible.
For the 2021 season, the government is working on the development of a regulation that would allow sugar shacks to serve meals outside the normally allowed period.