New Brunswick's booming maple industry is calling on the provincial government for access to more trees to meet growing demand for its products.
About 80 people protested beside the large maple leaf sculpture at Le Parc du Centenaire in Saint-Quentin, N.B. on Thursday, waving signs asking the government to accept their proposed expansion plan.
The New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association, which organized the demonstration, is asking for an additional 12,000 hectares of Crown lands to be made available for maple syrup production.
Producers currently have access to 14,000 hectares, which is less than one per cent of total Crown lands in the province.
Executive director Louise Poitras said communication with the government has reached a standstill and producers can't afford to keep waiting.
"It's promises, promises, one month, two months, then it's two years," she said in an interview. "Now is the time. We are frustrated, we can't take it anymore. We want answers and we want action."
'We are being ignored'
New Brunswick's maple syrup industry is rapidly growing, as demand for maple syrup products increases around the world.
Last season, favourable weather helped the province sell a record-breaking 4.7 million kilograms of syrup, worth more than $31 million dollars. It is now the third-largest producer in the world, after Quebec and Vermont.
WATCH / N.B. maple syrup producers call for expansion plan
Marco Martin, who runs an operation in Kedgwick, said commercial buyers are looking for larger quantities from producers.
"If we want to keep our business going we need to be able to supply the demand," he said. "Right now we're at a breaking point where the buyers of maple products are turning themselves to other provinces," he said.
Martin has a mid-size operation with 32,000 taps, which employs five people. He hopes the protest gets the message across that additional Crown land is needed now for the industry to be sustainable.
"There's a request out there for growing sugaries and we are being ignored," he said.
The province did not make anyone available to CBC News for an interview.
Nick Brown, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources and Energy, said the expansion plan request has been received.
"We are evaluating it against all the other land uses that are possible, like we do with any request," he wrote in an emailed statement. "We are working to advance this file, which will include consultation with First Nations and further discussion with industry."
Brown said the last expansion of leased Crown land to producers was in 2015, when the province approved an additional 4,400 hectares.
"The departments are very pleased to see that the maple syrup industry continues to grow in New Brunswick, it is clear that we are trending in the right direction," he wrote.
Maple producers argue evaluation of their plan is taking too long.
Poitras said talks with the province have been ongoing for several years, but there has been no communication in several months.
"If we don't have the hectares then it's less maple syrup, less jobs and less economy for this province," she said.
Logging activity on Crown land where sugar maples grow is also worrying producers. There's a fear much of the land the industry is asking for may no longer be suitable for tapping.
Martin said logging could effectively halt the industry's growth.
"If they're being harvested, then we're only going to be able to come back in 75 years from now in those areas, if the maple grows back," he said. "We are really concerned about what's going on around our existing sugaries and potential sugaries in the future."