MODESTO -- Almond growers have blown past all expectations with Wednesday's forecast that the state's crop will hit 1.95 billion pounds.
The projected harvest, announced in Modesto by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, would be a boon to the area's economy if the price per pound holds up.
The estimate is up 11 percent from the initial projection in May of 1.75 billion pounds. And it is 19 percent higher than the record crop of 1.64 billion pounds last year, despite erratic weather at pollination time and later.
Holy, moly, is that right?" said one of the 20 or so people who gathered for the noon announcement at the Almond Board of California headquarters atop the DoubleTree Hotel.
Industry leaders said continued growth in global demand will absorb the 2011 crop, averting a plunge in prices that would hurt growers.
"I really think it's a healthy number for the industry," said Dave Long, president of Hilltop Ranch Inc., a processor near Ballico.
The harvest will start in August.
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