California’s almond industry is pointed toward a third consecutive year for a record crop and its second 2-billion pound crop in a row.

For most California agricultural crops that would give pause about marketing; not so with California almonds. The almond industry is pleased with the prospect of meeting market demand, as growers work hard to get ready for the harvest and hoping to sustain prices in the $2 per pound range and shellers look to do their job more efficiently without building costly additions to their plants.

“It’s exceptional, remarkable,” said Frank Roque, general manager of Panoche Creek Packing in Kerman, Calif., one of largest independent almond packers in California. He was commenting on a report issued June 29 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that revised the forecast for this year’s crop upward to 2.1 billion meat pounds.

That’s up 5 percent from May’s subjective forecast and 3 percent above last year’s crop. The expected pounds per acre for 2012 are 2,690, compared with 2,670 for 2011.

“This number is about where buyers had in mind that the crop would be,” Roque said, adding, “We grew our business 13 percent last year and hope to grow it this year.”

The Kerman area is something of a mini capital for almonds in the state, and dimensions of the statewide drama of readying for next year’s crop are at play within just a few miles of the Kerman packer.

Don Cameron, general manager of Terra Nova Ranch Inc. headquartered in Helm, is readying his almond orchards that are just a few miles south of Panoche and near a hulling and shelling plant operated by the Central California Almond Growers Association.

Cameron was pleased with the boosted estimate: “The demand is there to use every bit of the crop, and the prices to farmers should remain at good levels. This is what the market needs. The prices should be $2 plus. It’s a good thing.”

Michael Kelley, president of the Central California Almond Growers Association, called the almond industry’s growth “a great story of sustainability for the state. It’s been about 5 percent every year (in recent years) and doesn’t seem to be bending. Almonds are the best value in the market.”

Kelley is a bit concerned about whether hullers in the state will be able to accommodate growth, particularly if it reaches what he said some Almond Board of California leaders are projecting 10 years down the line: a 3-billion pound crop.