Low-priced Brazilian orange juice overwhelms the American market and unfairly drives prices down, according to Florida citrus growers asking the United States to lay tariffs on the imports.

But representatives of Brazil - a huge force in the world orange juice market - say their products don't hurt their U.S. competitors and attributed any U.S. losses to low-carbohydrate diet trends and last year's catastrophic hurricane season.

Investigators heard testimony from the two sides Wednesday at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The fact-finding conference marked the latest step in a heated rivalry between Florida and Brazilian citrus groups.

Florida growers accused Brazilian exporters of selling orange juice in the United States at prices below their production costs and below the prices charged in other countries - a practice known as "dumping." If the sales can be proved to harm the U.S. industry, duties can be added to incoming juice from Brazil.

Andrew LaVigne, vice president of Florida Citrus Mutual, said blame for continuing operating losses should be attributed to Brazilian trade practices, not last year's hurricanes.

"These losses brought red ink to our books long before three recent hurricanes made landfall this summer," said LaVigne, whose group represents more than 10,400 growers. The organization accounts for about 90 percent of all oranges grown in the United States.

But Christopher Dunn, representing Brazilian interests, cited the large size of the domestic crop and said that Brazilian imports couldn't account for American problems. He added that, because of the hurricanes, Brazilian juice would be important to fill consumers' demands.

Specifically, Florida providers complained about two types of products: bulk frozen concentrated orange juice and not-from-concentrate orange juice. They allege that Brazilian frozen concentrated juice is sold at 37 percent below its actual value, while not-from-concentrate prices are 78 percent below what they should be.

The Department of Commerce will decide whether dumping has in fact taken place, and the trade commission will rule on whether the pricing has injured or threatens to hurt the domestic market. The Florida growers expect a decision sometime this summer.

"We expect bad years and losses from bad weather or bad luck, and we've bounced back many times," said Marty McKenna, president of Florida Citrus Mutual. "We don't seek charity, but we also don't want to have our hands tied by unfair competition."

Brazil, a world leader in the citrus industry, produces more than 50 percent of all orange juice, shipped mainly to the United States and Europe. Many citrus companies working in Brazil also have American operations.