California almond growers and the rest of the state's agriculture community continue to shake their heads in wonderment as harvest gets underway on the second 2 billion pound crop in a row.

And there are big smiles waving back and forth with the shaking heads.

Industry marketers say they can sell every one of those pounds at profitable prices.

The question that lingered as the industry approached its first 1 billion pound crop just a few years back continues to hang around: When will the almond bubble burst?

According to the sales manager of a major almond processor, Hilltop Ranch, Ballico, Calif., the bubble will not be bursting in the near future.

“The last eight years have been the most profitable ever for almond growers,” Ballico’s Paul Ewing said.

“We estimate that the next three seasons will be even more profitable than most of the past few years.”

Hilltop handles about 30,000 tons of almonds annually, shipping them to buyers in more than 70 countries.

Each month, the processor issues its assessment of the current almond market. However, this new report is the first time the company has analyzed long-term trends in production and demand and their likely impact on California’s almond industry. Worldwide demand for California almonds continues to surge. Fueled in large part by the growing middle classes in many emerging markets, this demand has increased an average of 13 percent annually over the last six years, he notes.

California exports about 70 percent of its almond production.