Anyone who has ever craved a dose of maple syrup—the real stuff, not the high fructose corn syrup that comes in a container shaped like a matronly woman—already knows it's the nutritional equivalent of liquid gold. There's that earthy sweet taste. There's the price, which can easily reach $60 a gallon or more.
But few appreciate the strategic value of boiled sap like the people of Quebec. Canada's francophone province is the Saudi Arabia of the syrup world, producing some three-quarters of the world's output. With the global market under stress—U.S. production is down 32 percent this year to 1.91 million gallons, according to the Department of Agriculture —perhaps it was only a matter of time before thieves targeted Quebec's rich reserves.