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The Impact of El Niño on Northeastern Forests: A Case Study on Maple Syrup Production
Nancy Bergeron, Roger A. Sedjo
RFF Discussion Paper 99-43 | June 1999

El Niño events are likely to affect maple syrup production since it is very sensitive to weather events. A statistically significant direct correlation has not been found in our preliminary analysis, however. This may be because many other factors affect production and because weather anomalies also occur in non-El Niño years.

Few defensive activities are available to maple syrup producers to alleviate the negative impacts of weather anomalies on their production. Hence, the value of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecasts to them is likely to be low, even if a clear correlation between productivity and ENSO events was eventually found.

Overall, small welfare impacts of El Niño weather events are expected from their impact on the maple syrup industry, even if a correction is found. This is mainly because the share of maple syrup production in the economy is very small. Also, only a portion of the exploitable trees is under production and hence some excess capacity exists. Furthermore, maple syrup has numerous substitutes (albeit imperfect) as sources of sugar and luxury food items; the impact on consumer welfare is hence likely to be small.

The most unique feature of maple syrup production includes cultural and amenity values provided by the springtime sugaring off parties; this appears as the least substitutable characteristic of the maple syrup industry. Indeed, few forest-based activities exist at the time of maple sap harvest. In all likelihood, even if the development of the industry is slowed down because of ENSO events, this springtime ritual will remain as it does not involve great investment like the larger, more sophisticated activities do. The welfare impact, through the lack of substitute, would be greater if this tradition were to disappear altogether.

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