MODESTO — The federal government Monday trimmed its estimate of the 2013 almond crop in California by 7.5 percent.
The crop is now expected to be about 1.85 billion pounds, down from the near-record 2.0007 billion pounds projected in May, the National Agricultural Statistics Service said.
The announcement, as usual, was made at the stroke of noon at the Modesto headquarters of the Almond Board of California.
The first estimate was based on a telephone survey of 305 growers, the second on measurement of nuts from 1,766 trees.
The agency noted that the pollination period this winter was shorter than usual, and high wind in April knocked down some of the nuts, as well as trees in some places. It said mites and water shortages have been a concern to some growers.
California grows about 75 percent of the world's almonds, which are the state's No. 1 farm export. They are second only to milk in gross income among farm products in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, generating several thousand jobs in farming, processing and related businesses.
Merced County ranks third in the state in almond acreage, after Kern and Fresno. Stanislaus is fourth, San Joaquin sixth.
Monday's report said the total amount of land growing almonds increased to a record 810,000 acres, up 20,000 from last year and double the 1991 figure. The expected average yield per acre dipped this year to 2,280 pounds, compared with 2,390 last year and a record 2,670 in 2011.
"The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.36 grams, which is the lowest average kernel weight in 40 years," the report said.
The Almond Board pays for the two surveys each year.
The harvest, which will start in August, still would be the third largest in the state's history if the projection holds up. The record of 2.03 billion pounds was set in 2011.
The reduced supply could help keep per-pound prices for growers strong. They have benefited from research suggesting that the nuts can help protect people from heart disease, cancer and other ills.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.