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Cold snap damages citrus crop in South

Fruit growers in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana hurried to process citrus crops Tuesday after the record cold gripping much of the rest of the country dipped into the Southeast. There was wide speculation about how badly the sub-zero temperatures hurt the $2.5 billion industry - and what kind of increases in fruit and juice prices consumers might expect.

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In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, a spokesman for citrus growers said all oranges and grapefruit were no longer suitable for table use and would be crushed instead for juice.

In Florida, damage appeared similar to that of a January 1981 freeze that destroyed approximately one-third of the harvest. But a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual said he considered reports of $500 million in damage ''way too high, '' adding that there would be enough oranges from areas that escaped the freeze to satisfy market demand for fresh fruit. Growers undertook a round-the-clock salvage operation, which included stripping trees as quickly as possible or spraying the fruit with water to mitigate freeze damage.

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