This year’s California almond crop is shaping up to be not just a record-breaker — it’s forecast to be a bin-buster.

To no one’s surprise, the state’s first crop estimate is 1.31 billion pounds, based on a consensus of almond growers, marketers, hullers, and University of California farm advisors polled two weeks ago by Western Farm Press.

If realized, that figure will not just break, it will shatter the record by almost 200 million pounds.

It represents a 17 percent increase over the 2006 crop. By comparison, the 1995 crop was just 370 million pounds.

It will be the fifth one billion-pound crop in the past six years. The average yield is estimated at 2,130 pounds per acre, shattering the old mark of 130 pounds.

That difference alone likely represents an income increase of about $250 per acre more to growers.

Estimated bearing acreage for 2007 is 615,000, also the largest ever.

This forecast is based on a telephone survey of 340 of 470 growers contacted between April 23 and May 2. Acreage from these reports accounted for 27 percent of the total bearing acreage. The survey was taken before winds with gusts as high as 79 miles per hour toppled some trees and knocked maturing almonds off trees.

The 2007 almond set was strong, following a winter of excellent chilling hours. Overall, there was a sufficient bee activity during pollination. Some almond tree limbs, especially pollinator varieties, bowed and split under the weight of the heavy set.

Throughout the Central Valley, the set of the popular Nonpareil variety is uniformly heavy; many believe the California variety set is even heavier.

For the past three years, average prices have been more than $2 per pound. If this happens again, the California almond crop will move toward a value of more than $2.6 billion.

email: hcline@farmpress.com