The subjective crop estimate from the California Agricultural Statistics Service came out May 9. The CASS objective crop estimate, which is always more definitive, will be released June 26.

A 920-million-pound crop would become the second largest crop by almost 100 million pounds, leaping over the 1999 crop of 830 million pounds.

The largest crop ever was the 2002 crop of almost 1.2 billion pounds. However, this crop was propelled through the market system at a record breaking pace. When the final reports come in, 2002 crop shipments are expected to reach 952 million pounds, a whopping 16 percent increase over 2001 shipments.

Coming with those production and shipment records were excellent prices.

Most almond handlers say the industry needs a big crop in 2003 to meet growing demand. Handlers are predicting grower returns will be 10 to 20 cents per pound over 2002 prices.

e-mail:hcline@primediabusiness.com