Price of honey up this Jewish New Year

Apples and honey on a plate for Rosh HashanaThe tradition of dipping apples into honey to ensure a "sweet" Jewish New Year just got a little pricier this Rosh Hashana. The holiday, which starts at sundown on tonight (Sept. 8), usually features a bowl of honey on the dinner table. A taste of the sweet stuff symbolically means your new year will be happier, healthier and more prosperous. Who wouldn't mind a little more of any of that?

But according to information from Bee Culture magazine, the retail price of an average pound of honey jumped almost 10% from $4.60 to $5.04 from August 2009 to August 2010. The magazine considers not just generic store brands in its averaging though. It also factors in the high-end specialty honeys that cost more.

The National Honey Board disputes the broader numbers, which do appear nonetheless on its website, and says that if you exclude the fancier stuff, the price of honey only jumped from about $3.75 a pound to $3.94 a pound, a more modest 5% increase. Those numbers, according to National Honey Board marketing director Bruce Wolk, are gleaned from A.C. Nielsen reporting services, which provides supermarket sales data to many industries.

Why any increase at all, we asked. No, it wasn't the mysterious bee plague -- linked by some to the preponderance of cell phones. Honey is a crop and like all crops, is subject to environmental stress. Researchers worldwide are studying bees to learn what's bothering them and impeding their ability to do what comes naturally. Opportunistic viruses, pesticides and even changing weather patterns are all likely suspects, says Wolk.

Perhaps they're also feeling the stress of the recession too.
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