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Warm Winter Makes For New York Maple Syrup Shortage

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- This has been the warmest February in New York City history so far – but while you may welcome the mild temperatures, it could wind up costing you more for breakfast.

As CBS2's Brian Conybeare reported, the local maple syrup business has been getting hit particularly hard by the weather.

Clear sap looks almost like water as it drips from 2,400 sugar maple trees. It is still trickling into a collection tank from three miles' worth of plastic tubes at the White Oak Farm in Yorktown Heights, Westchester County.

"All of these trees are inter connected," said Bri Hart of the farm.

But Hart said his production is down by about 75 percent so far this year because of the unusually warm weather right in the middle of the six-week syrup season in the winter.

"It's been in the 60s the last week, so we've got a much reduced flow of sap from what we normally get this time of year," Hart said. "It's devastating to us."

Hart said it takes 60 gallons of raw tree sap to make one gallon of pure syrup.

The experts said there is a sweet spot for maple syrup it when it comes to the weather – it must be below freezing at night and into the 40s during the day for the sap to run.

And buds on the branches of the trees in February are a very bad sign.

"Once those trees begin to blossom, the tree's done its job in terms of bringing the sap up, and it's not going to produce sap anymore," Hart said. "So once those trees begin to bud out, that's the end of our season."

Hart's syrup is on the menu, and the pancakes, at the nearby Yorktown Coach Diner.

"It was pretty good," said pancake lover John Desiderio.

Owner Gus Moissiadis said he tries to use locally-sourced, natural products like White Oak Maple Syrup whenever possible.

"It's a much better quality and the taste and everything," Moissaidis said. "Sometimes it's hard to get it because of the weather."

And Hart said unfortunately, people will likely be paying more for that real maple flavor.

"I don't think you're going to see a drastic rise in prices, but I think you will see some rise if, you know, the weather doesn't start to get colder again," Hart said.

So far, Hart has made only about 200 gallons – when he would normally be closer to 800 or more in a normal, cooler winter.

New York state is the second biggest maple syrup producer in the country, behind only Vermont. The industry is sponsoring Maple Weekend with tastings and events around the region next month.

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