Almond crop to pass last year's record, government predicts

Another record almond crop -- about 1.46 billion pounds -- will come off California orchards this year, the federal government projected today.

The estimate is 6 percent more than the 1.38 billion pounds last year. It reflects favorable weather in winter and spring and an adequate supply of bees for pollinating, said Doug Flohr, a statistician for the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The steady growth will help keep supply in line with demand, said Richard Waycott, president and chief executive officer of the Almond Board of California.

The projection, closely watched by the industry because of its effect on almond prices, was made at noon at the board's Modesto headquarters.

It was based on a telephone survey of growers. A second estimate, based on actual measurements of the maturing nuts, will be released June 30.

Almonds are second only to milk in gross farm income in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, bringing an estimated $833 million to growers in 2006.

Though Flohr said bee supplies were adequate, another study painted a grimmer picture.

A survey of bee health released Tuesday said 36.1 percent of the nation's commercially managed hives lost since last year.