(July 21, 1:50 p.m.) Looming irrigation water shortage in California has spurred Tulare, Calif.-based A&P Growers Cooperative to leave the state for additional pistachio acreage. The nut growers’ cooperative has purchased Pistachio Corp. of Arizona, Tucson. The price was not disclosed.

“We had planned to plant additional acres in Lost Hills, but because of the water situation we decided against it,” said Jim Zion, managing partner of Meridian Nut Growers LLC, Clovis, Calif., the cooperative’s marketing arm.

The Arizona company is the state’s largest pistachio grower-shipper with 700 acres of orchards, Zion said. The purchase includes additional acreage, but A&P does not plan to plant on the extra land.

“We will use the water from those additional acres to assure us adequate irrigation water,” Zion said.

The Arizona orchards, which Zion said represent nearly 60% of that state’s pistachio production, assures A&P an adequate supply on a year-round basis. When California’s production is low, he said, Arizona usually has a large crop.

Annual volume from Arizona will be about 10 million pounds, Zion said. A&P’s highest annual volume to date has been about 35 million pounds. The Arizona orchards are very good quality and are planted at a higher altitude, which provides the needed chilling hours during the trees’ dormant period, he said.

Meridian Nut Growers sells primarily overseas, Zion said. The Arizona acreage will permit the company to expand its base of domestic customers, he said.

“About 65% of California pistachios are exported these days,” Zion said. “With the weak dollar, we’re shipping left and right. It’s amazing.”