Honey prices are spiking, thanks to stagnant production caused at least in part by a mysterious suppression of the honeybee population.
The Wall Street Journal reports that retail honey prices reached $4.69 a pound, up 25% since 2013, during which time sugar prices dropped about 30%. U.S. retail prices stood at $7.66 a pound, up 9% from last year.
The price increases are caused partly by increased demand for what is considered a healthy, natural sweetener, especially in “exotic” forms such as raw and unfiltered or varieties produced in remote parts of the world. About three-quarters of the honey consumed in the U.S. is imported.
However, a more ominous price driver is the mysterious disappearance of worker bees in many commercial colonies across the world. Possible factors include pesticide usage and the Varroa mite, a disease-causing parasite. This is hampering efforts to increase production to meet demand.
On a slightly encouraging note, honey production in the U.S. edged up 2.3% in 2018 from 2017, to 152.3 million pounds. This was, however, the second-lowest total since 2013.