Although prices for the 2011 almonds have slipped some lately from levels earlier this marketing year, they remain respectable. Depending on size, Nonpareil, the industry standard, has been trading in the $1.90 - $2.40-per-pound range, Kelley notes. However, as usual with a large crop, finding large count sizes in this crop that fetch a premium is proving challenging. Meanwhile, prices for California varieties have held their own, selling from about $1.50 a pound to $1.60.

“To come off a crop as large as this one and still have prices at these levels is really fantastic,” Kelley says. “It reflects the record volume of shipments that are going out.” In fact, he notes, the industry broke shipping records for each of the first four months of the 2011 marketing year. The California Almond Board’s shipments during that period totaled 710.3 million pounds, an 11.1-percent increase over the same period in 2010.

“October was the first time the industry shipped more than 200 million pounds of almonds in a single month, and we did it again in November,” Kelley says. “Although these levels suggest that quality could be limited when we get into the summer months, selling all of the 2011 crop shouldn’t be a problem.”

However, adequate supplies of water to grow the 2012 crop could be. “Up until the rain in mid-January, we’ve been on track to having the driest year in the San Joaquin Valley since the mid-1920s,” Kelley says. “That’s spooky. There’s a lot of new wood on the trees this season and that bodes well for a good nut set. But, right now, I think the biggest thing on growers’ minds is the lack of rain so far this winter.”