The 2013-14 U.S. pistachio crop could be 90 million pounds lighter than first estimated, and prices could hit record highs as a result.

About 460 million pounds of pistachios will be produced this season, down from an earlier estimate of 550 million pounds, according to a new estimate from Los Angeles-based Paramount Farms, which markets more than 60% of U.S. pistachios, said Andy Anzaldo, the company’s general manager of grower relations.

Richard Matoian, executive director of the Fresno, Calif.-based American Pistachio Growers, said the Paramount estimate was a good one, though a more accurate estimate would not likely be available until early November.

Both the American Pistachio Growers and Paramount Farms issued the earlier estimates of 550 million pounds.

About 555 million pounds of pistachios were produced in the U.S. last year, Matoian said.

Given the high demand for pistachios worldwide, he said, the big expected drop this year could pose challenges for marketers. Even with a much bigger crop last season, shippers often had to scramble to meet demand.

“It will be even more difficult this year with the crop situation,” Matoian said.

Paramount Farms’ first priority, Anzaldo said, will be to supply its retail customers that are committed to promoting the company’s Wonderful brand year-round.

The second priority, he said, is servicing Paramount’s industrial customers and export markets in China and Europe.

Where supplies could come up short, Anzaldo said, is in Paramount Farms’ third tier of customers — f.o.b. markets and exports to India, Russia and other emerging pistachio markets.

Strong demand should push per-pound prices over $5 this season, Anzaldo said.

“By the end of the year, wholesale prices should be at record levels.”

A number of factors have contributed to the big volume loss this season, Matoian said.

Bursts of hot summer weather kept sizing down, he said. In addition, some orchards had an abnormally high number of blanks — fully formed shells with no meat inside.

Finally, Matoian said, many trees didn’t have as many nuts on them as usual.