The objective California almond crop forecast projected production for the 2009-2010 crop year at 1.350 billion meat pounds – down 7 percent from the May 8 subjective forecast of 1.450 billion pounds.

That’s great news and should be welcomed throughout the industry,” says Dave Baker, director of member relations for Blue Diamond.

Developed by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service – California Field Office, the estimate is also down 16 percent from this year’s crop to date of 1.613 billion pounds as of May 31. The forecast is based on 710,000 bearing acres.

The average nut set per tree is 5,589, down 25 percent from the 2008 almond crop. The Nonpareil average nut set of 5,136 is down 27 percent from last year’s set. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.58 grams, up 10 percent from 2008.

Less almond production combined with dwindling carryover and rising consumption should help boost prices by better balancing supply and demand, he reasons.

Worldwide consumption of almonds is expected to increase about 110 million pounds from 1.26 billion pounds for the 2007 crop to around 1.37 for the 2008 crop marketing year, Baker notes. Even with the worldwide economic downturn, consumption of the 2009 crop is predicted to increase another 125 to 135 million pounds or so to a total of about 1.5 billion pounds.

Carryover inventory from 2008 to the 2009 crop is projected at about 440 million pounds, Baker reports. Meanwhile, carryover of this year’s crop into next year is expected to decline to the 260 to 280-million-pound range.

“That’s a marginal carryover for an industry producing crops as large as ours,” he says.

Not only that but, the likely return of El Nino next year could diminish the size of the 2010 crop, he adds. As a result, world’s supplies might not cover demand.

“That would put supply and demand back hand in glove and provide the opportunity to bring prices back to a profitable level for growers,” Baker says. “Right now almond prices, which have been at or below production costs for varieties other than Nonpareil, are going up.”