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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 2 Jun 1937

Vol. 67 No. 12

Committee on Finance. - Pigs and Bacon Bill, 1937—Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

On this definition section, would the Minister tell us will the registered minor curers, when they receive licences under this Bill, simply become small curers under the category in the Principal Act?

Dr. Ryan


And then, in future, minor curers will cease to exist as a separate body and simply become large curers, medium curers and small curers?

Dr. Ryan


What is going to happen to the pork butcher? He is not referred to at all in this.

Dr. Ryan

He is dealt with under the Principal Act.

His position under the Principal Act will remain?

Dr. Ryan

It will remain as it is.

And he will be entitled to pickle whatever pork he is afraid will go bad?

Dr. Ryan

15 per cent.

That is the limit of his rights?

Dr. Ryan


Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3, 4 and 5 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 6 stand part of the Bill."

What exactly happens now when you reduce the preliminary period to one year? Is it for the purpose of bringing this Bill into immediate operation?

Dr. Ryan

If we did not have this amendment, the preliminary period would end on 1st April, 1939. This amendment makes the preliminary period end on 1st April, 1938. It gives the minor curers another year as minor curers.

To qualify as small curers, if they have not qualified to date?

Dr. Ryan


It gives them another year?

Dr. Ryan

If the Principal Act had been put into operation immediately, their two years would be practically over now.

In fact, you did not put the Principal Act into operation in regard to this preliminary period, but you are going to put it into operation now?

Dr. Ryan

It has been in operation from 1st April, 1937.

And you are giving them until 1st April, 1938?

Dr. Ryan


Why are you reducing the period from two years to one? Is it because you meant to put it into operation earlier and then changed your mind?

Dr. Ryan

At the time the Principal Act was going through, it was anticipated that the preliminary period would end about September next. Some difficulty then arose with regard to finding veterinary staff, and so on, and it was not brought into operation until 1st April, 1937, so that even though we are shortening the period by one year now, the minor curers have at least six months longer than was anticipated at that time.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 7 stand part of the Bill."

Has this any real effect?

Dr. Ryan

No. It is consequential again on Section 6.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 8 stand part of the Bill."

What is the effect of this?

Dr. Ryan

It deals again with minor curers. The Principal Act provided for application only after the expiration of the preliminary period and within one month after such expiration. The new provision in sub-section (1) provides that it can be made during the preliminary period or within a month afterwards. It is merely to give them a little more time, in the case of the minor curers who, for one reason or another, did not make up their minds during the month of March. I think it was to cover a few cases that were late I know that one minor curer at least was held technically to be late but I think that, morally, he could not be held to be late because he was actually carrying on correspondence with the Department with regard to his rights during February and March.

Did I understand the Minister to say that, under the Principal Act, the time of application was after the preliminary period had elapsed?

Dr. Ryan


And what has happened in fact is that certain minor curers qualified during the last two years and have since become licensed curers?

Dr. Ryan

Some of them have.

Four or five?

Dr. Ryan

Some of the smaller licensed curers would, I think, come within that category.

Some of them who were minor curers when the Principal Act passed.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 9 agreed to.
. . . . .
(4) The Principal Act is hereby amended in the following respects and shall be construed and have effect accordingly, that is to say:—
(a) by the deletion of sub-sections (2) and (4) of Section 54;
(b) by the deletion in sub-section (3) of the said Section 54 of the words "or the bacon (as the case may be)";
(c) by the deletion in sub-section (5) of the said Section 54 of the words "or bacon";

Dr. Ryan

I move amendment No. 1:—

In sub-section (4) (c), page 6, line 16, to insert before the word "bacon" the word "any".

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 10, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

This section is an immense section by reference. What exactly is the full effect of it?

Dr. Ryan

Section 10 is a redraft, word for word, of the Principal Act. There are other sections in the same position.

It simply extends the right of marking the carcases of bacon?

Dr. Ryan

Yes. It is taken out of the Principal Act and copied into this again.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 12 stand part of the Bill."

Is this a question of the appointed day for the purpose of allowing the preliminary period to run?

Dr. Ryan

There would be a hiatus if this section were not put in, because the Principal Act must continue to operate until this Act is put into operation. Therefore, there is an appointed day for bringing this into operation, and the Principal Act, wherever it is amended by this, will be repealed.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 13 agreed to.

Dr. Ryan

I move amendment No. 2:—

Before Section 14 to insert a new section as follows:—

Sub-section (2) of Section 92 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the deletion therefrom of paragraph (f) (being the paragraph commencing with the words "an order" and ending with the words "production of bacon"), and the said sub-section shall be construed and have effect accordingly."

As the Principal Act stood, these production orders had to be made about a week before the period. The amending Bill, as introduced, brought that down to a period of three days, and now there is a further amendment providing that they need not publish until the last day of the production period for the coming production period. It is a matter that concerns the bacon factories alone. It is not the concern of anybody else as to how they may regulate this business with regard to production periods, but the Bacon Board believe that at certain times of the year, such as the present, when there is some difficulty in getting enough pigs, it would be well if they were to make their production period short and, even weekly, if necessary, in order to meet their difficulties in the best possible way. The bacon curers are all agreed that if the production quota were fixed on the last day of the period to come into operation the following day for the new period, it would be quite workable. I, personally, thought the scheme was unworkable until I got an assurance that the bacon curers themselves were quite agreeable to accept it as being necessary to meet the difficulty at certain times. It would not, however, be adopted as a routine practice, but only in time of great difficulty. They may go to the last day of the period.

I hesitate to demur in a highly technical matter of this kind, but the Minister will recall that the whole underlying principle of this legislation was to provide, for protected periods, stability in the trade. The production quota order is a vital matter because it determines absolutely the number of pigs which can be sold by producers to factories. If we are to have a production quota for only a week and a new production quota thereafter, does it not seem to fly in the face of the entire principle underlying the Bill? The price of pigs in this country is determined by the Pigs Marketing Board and the Pigs Marketing Board is, in fact, controlled by the Bacon Marketing Board. I observed recently that when the bacon curers found themselves confronted with a shortage of pigs and, possibly, keen competition to get pigs, they adopted a new departure. Deputies may forget that while the Pigs Marketing Board have the right to fix the price of a pig delivered at a factory, there are still fairs and markets functioning in the country.

During the last three weeks or a month, a very acute shortage of pigs arose and the result of that was that if I sent my pigs to the factory I would only get 73/- a cwt. for a Grade A1 pig but, in the streets of Ballaghaderreen, I could get 82/-. On the last fair day in Ballaghaderreen my neighbours and I brought out our pigs and got from 80/- to 82/-, when all we could get from the factory was 73/-. After congratulating ourselves, we went back to the pig-sty, looked at each pig, stroked its back, congratulated it and hoped it would be ready for the market at no far distant date, so that we would get 82/- for it as well. Then we read a paragraph in the newspapers to the effect that the curers had got permission from the Minister for Agriculture to buy a large quantity of pigs in Northern Ireland, where there was a temporary glut, and to bring these cheap pigs into the Free State and manufacture them into bacon, whereupon the price of pigs in Ballaghaderreen market fell by from 15/- to £1. Pigs that were worth 82/- were now only worth about 68/-.

I consulted Monday morning's post in the hope that what we would lose on the roulette we would make up on the roundabouts, by getting a substantial reduction in the price of bacon as a result of the purchase of these cheap pigs in Northern Ireland. What was my astonishment to find that the price of bacon had been increased by 6/- per cwt. by the curers! The price of hard, salted bacon quoted by one of the principal curers last week was 120/- per cwt.—4/- higher than his list price. His list price, which I have before me, is 116/-. His representative quoted me 120/- per cwt. for hard, salted bacon. In a well run factory, 20/- over the price of pork delivered at the factory should yield the curer a modest profit. Lest I should be overstating my case, let us assume he should have 26/- per cwt. If he is paying 73/- per cwt. for top grade now, I am not exaggerating if I say that he is paying about 70/- all round for his pigs. On that basis, he ought to supply the consumer with bacon at 96/- per cwt. However, we have got to remember that the Minister for Agriculture is using the hypothetical price fund to help himself, or the Minister for Finance, to pay the bounty on exported bacon. The hypothetical price fund levy when I last heard of it was 12/- per cwt. Perhaps the Minister would tell us what the hypothetical price fund levy is now.

Dr. Ryan


The curer has to pay 70/-, plus 10/- levy. Out of his 26/- profit gross, he has to pay all the cost of manufacture. That is 106/- and the price of pigs is 120/-. I am making up the price of bacon on the basis of the fixed price for pigs delivered at the factory but I know that the curers are at the present time buying cheap pigs in Northern Ireland and I do not know what they are paying for them. They are being allowed to bring in these cheap pigs from Northern Ireland to keep down the price of my pigs in Ballaghaderreen market because, for the first time in two years, I am in a position to hold for a good price from the bacon curer. If the farmer whose price is being beaten down by imported pigs from a country where there is a temporary glut makes any complaint that he has to pay an inflated price because of the protective tariff that is levied on what he has to buy, he is "sabotaging Irish industry,""playing England's game,""betraying the unemployed and the downtrodden, and he is Public Enemy No. 1." Everything the pig producer has to buy is rigorously protected, and the price is proportionately raised but if, by chance, the pig producer succeeds in creating a situation in which he can ask a good price from the curer for the pigs he has produced, immediately the Minister for Agriculture opens wide the door and invites in all the surplus pigs from Northern Ireland, heating down the price of pigs on the market here by 15/- per cwt. That is not justice.

Whatever has come over the Minister for Agriculture in regard to all this pig business, he seems to have delivered himself over body and soul to the curers. Whatever they want him to do, he will do it. That does not seem to me to be reasonable or just at all. The Minister will say in reply: "I have got a quota on the British market and I have to fill it. If we have not enough pigs to fill it here, we must get pigs from somewhere." But when the curers are buying cheap pigs in Northern Ireland to keep down the price of our pigs, they are required to make no contribution at all. Whether they make a contribution on their pigs or not, the admission of these pigs freely results in the price of the Irish farmer's pig here being beaten down to a surplus-level price. By that, I mean the price which rules when there is a surplus of pigs on the market. I think that requires explanation. The Minister ought to explain to us now why it is that when there is ever any change in the price of pigs, or in the price of bacon, it is always at the expense of the consumer of producer, but never at the expense of the curers, who at the present time control not only the Bacon Marketing Board but the Pigs Marketing Board as well.

I know what the position is in the country, and I know for a fact that the price that is being paid for pigs is not up to the standard. Comparing the prices paid for pigs and the prices charged for bacon, the Pigs Marketing Board should be well aware of that fact, which is a source of great complaint in the country. This matter of allowing pigs in from Northern Ireland to depress prices here should not be tolerated.

Dr. Ryan

I stated here on other Stages of this Bill that I was not in a position to say what was a fair price for bacon according to the prices that were being paid for pigs. The prices Commission are investigating that matter. I know that they have proceeded with a certain part of their investigation. I hope they may be able to report soon, so that we may know whether there is profiteering on the part of curers, wholesalers or retailers or anywhere else. The point was made that I took no action about the pigs coming in from Northern Ireland. I was not asked to take any action. Any person is permitted to go to the North of Ireland, buy pigs there and bring them in here. There is no tariff or prohibition of any kind. If abuses were to arise in connection with that, perhaps a case could be made for some tariff or embargo on the importation of pigs. But if I had brought in a proposal a few weeks ago to put a tariff on pigs coming into this country I can imagine the type of speech that Deputy Dillon would have made. He would ask me in what circumstances I would expect pigs would ever come in here from the North of Ireland considering the prices that were being paid there. I am sure that is the type of speech he would have made, because he never thought until now that we could get anything like the same price here as they were getting in Northern Ireland. If it becomes an abuse in any way, or interferes with our own producers, action will have to be taken to fix a price here. The top price at the moment is 75/-, and if a producer has pigs I think any factory will take them. If not, as soon as this amending Bill goes through provision will be made to compel the factories to take them under certain circumstances. I would like the Deputy to believe that I have taken no action with regard to the pigs coming in here, but if it is thought I should, I am prepared to consider it should the situation become dangerous in any way for our producers.

Surely the Minister knows it is true that pigs were making 82/- per cwt. in the market ten days ago. I got it myself for seven pigs. They are down now under the guaranteed price.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy is entitled to get the guaranteed price.

I am not complaining of that. Why was it that they did not go and get pigs in Northern Ireland before? How did the scarcity ever arise? There has been a glut of pigs in Northern Ireland for some time. What drove them across the Border to get pigs within the last ten days?

Dr. Ryan

I think it is going on longer than ten days.

Has the Minister heard any explanation for the sudden influx of Northern Ireland pigs here. After all, his officials must know what the situation is, because it is of vital importance to know from time to time what the available supplies of pigs are. I must confess that the Minister astonishes me when he tells me that there is no restriction on the purchase of pigs, because he will remember that one of the very relevant facts, when fixing a production quota, is to assess the number that will be available. Well, if all the pigs in Northern Ireland are available as well as the pigs in Saorstát Eireann, how is that assessment ever made, or how is it ever hoped to make such an assessment? How is it, if that be true that there was never any restriction on bringing in pigs here, that the present situation came about? Surely it is true to say that our quota to Great Britain requires that the bacon manufactured here shall be bacon manufactured from pigs reared in Saorstát Eireann, or need bacon only be manufactured in Saorstát Eireann? Can we buy live pigs in Northern Ireland, and ship them under our bacon and pig quota to Great Britain?

Dr. Ryan

I would not like to answer that question straight off.

Is it contended that we could buy pigs in Northern Ireland, bring them to Saorstát Eireann, and ship them from Saorstát Eireann back to Northern Ireland under our quota to Great Britain?

Dr. Ryan

I do not want to contend that, but I do not think there is anything against it.

I am at a loss to understand how it is that people do not buy pigs in Northern Ireland when the price is low, bring them over the Border, and tender them to a factory here when the price is higher here.

Dr. Ryan

That has happened on occasions.

And that could be done?

Dr. Ryan

Only to a small extent.

The other matter that I want to ask the Minister about is this. The Minister must know as well as I do that 26/- a cwt. is an ample margin for curing bacon. He must know also, as I know, the prices that the curers are charging for bacon. There is no concealment about it. The price lists go out every Monday. Has he nothing to say to the Pigs Marketing Board when fixing prices for pigs? They have fixed a price for pigs which, allowing for the legitimate profit that ought to be made by the curers, bears no relation whatever to the current price of bacon. Surely it is the Minister's duty, if he finds that the producers' representatives on the Pigs Marketing Board are not fighting for the interests of pig producers, to change them. Two of his nominees have been sitting on the Pigs Marketing Board nominally representing the producers. They have publicly stated, on at least one occasion, that they concurred in the prices fixed. The price fixed to-day is 75/- per cwt., and the price charged for bacon made out of pigs bought at 75/- per cwt. is 120/- per cwt. Is it not time that the Minister either changed the producers' representatives on that Board, or else sent for them and asked them to render an account of the manner in which they have been discharging their duties, because somebody seems to have fallen down very materially? While the Prices Commission is supposed to be examining into the price of bacon, the producers of pigs are being ground between the upper and the nether Minister.

The Minister for Agriculture says that he hopes the Prices Commission will shortly report. I received a requisition from the Prices Commission a couple of days ago in my capacity as a bacon wholesaler and retailer, asking me to give them full particulars of all the bacon we have bought in three years, with the several prices we paid for gammons and other cuts, and the several prices at which we have sold the bacon—gammons and other cuts—for three years. If they had asked me to give them the first verse and the last verse of the Persian Koran, translated into Aramaic, I might have been better able to answer them.

They both seem to be irrelevant as far as this matter is concerned.

But, Sir, according to the Minister, they are both relevant so far as the Prices Tribunal is concerned, and I say that, if the Prices Tribunal are going to follow along the lines that they have been following up to the present, we need not expect to have a report from them for the next two or three years. Meanwhile, however, the evil continues, and my suggestion is that we should deal with it now. I know that now I can get 64/- a cwt. in the market and 75/- a cwt., at the factory, and that the price of bacon is 120/- a cwt. I ask the Minister now to take such steps as may be necessary to abate that evil, as it seems to me to be, and not to wait till the Prices Tribunal conclude whatever sittings they are having now.

Deputy Dillon did not tell us what prices are being paid for pigs in Northern Ireland. Perhaps he could tell us?

No; but I should like to find out.

Well, my reason for saying that was that it was reported to me that they were being imported at 4/6 a cwt. more, and the argument was put forward that, if the curer could do that and still have a profit, he could pay more to the producers.

I do not know, but, as I say, I should like to find out.

That would not correspond with the idea of a glut in Northern Ireland. If there be a glut there, why should they pay 4/6 more?

I do not know.

Well, the way it was put to me was that in Northern Ireland, where the white Ulster pig predominates, the curer was willing to pay 4/6 a cwt. more to get them, and that if they could pay that much more and still make a profit, we should be getting a better price.

Surely the Minister knows what the prices are to-day in Northern Ireland?

Dr. Ryan

Well, I do not know exactly, but I think it is about the same price.

About 75/- a cwt.?

Dr. Ryan


Amendment No. 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 14, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I think, Sir, that the inequalities the Minister tolerates are really very hard to bear in silence. He is leaning very heavily on the Ulster pig as bred in Saorstát Eireann. He may be right in that or he may be wrong, and I admit that there is a great deal to be said on both sides; but here you have curers being authorised to cut the prices of Grade A pigs down to 65/- or 76/-, and the same curers are going up to Northern Ireland and buying the Ulster pig and bringing him in and giving Grade A1 prices for him. Is that fair?

Dr. Ryan

I do not know if that is true.

Well, I cannot say that I know it to be true either. I do not know what prices the curers are paying in Northern Ireland for these pigs, but I suppose that if they are buying them in Tyrone and Fermanagh, they are getting a number of these Ulster pigs.

That may be, but it does not always follow.

That is so. I admit that it does not follow, but I think that these are things that the Minister should be vigilant in investigating with a view to seeing whether the producers are getting fair value. All I want is equality.

Section 14, as amendment, agreed to.

Dr. Ryan

The object of Section 15, Sir, is to give the board a little more time to prepare accounts.

Sections 15 and 16 agreed to.
Sub-section (2) of Section 98 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the substitution of the words "three days" for the words "one week" now contained therein, and the said sub-section shall be construed and have effect accordingly.

Dr. Ryan

I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 7, to delete lines 57 and 58, and substitute the following "hereby amended by the substitution of the words ‘the last day of a production period or, if the last day of a production period is either a Saturday or a Sunday, the last Friday in such production period,' for the words ‘one week before the end of a production period,' now contained therein, and the said".

This amendment, Sir, is following on the previous amendment with regard to the fixing of production periods and giving the board, if necessary, until the last day to fix the quota.

Amendment 3 agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
Section 18 agreed to.

There are three amendments—Nos. 4, 5 and 6 —in the name of Deputy McGilligan. I think they are more or less connected.

I think, Sir, that amendment No. 5 is somewhat different from amendments Nos. 4 and 6. The three amendments read as follows:—

4. In sub-section (1), line 14, to insert after the word "proper" the following words:—"Provided always that not less than seven and one-half per centum of the production quota shall be reserved to and allotted among qualified minor curers."

5. In sub-section (2), lines 27, 28 and 29, to delete the words in brackets.

6. To insert before sub-section (3) a new sub-section as follows:—

(3) In allotting among qualified minor curers under an allocation (bacon production quota) order the portion of the production quota reserved to qualified minor curers in respect of a particular production period the board shall have regard to the quantity of bacon produced by each such qualified minor curer during the period of 12 months ending on 31st day of March, 1937.

With regard to amendments Nos. 4 and 6, some changes might be made in the wording, if the principle were accepted. I have put these amendments forward for a very definite purpose. The Act of 1935, it is generally admitted, was in favour of the big man, and it is recognised that this Bill is much more in favour of the big man than the Act of 1935, and consequently there is the danger here of dealing with the people aimed at in a sectional way. What I was aiming at in these amendments was that, whatever was the amount minor curers had done in any year—let us say, the year 1935, or the period ending in June of 1935, the date of the passing of the earlier measure — should be related, if it could be got, to what was being transferred into the terms of the Act and this Bill, and that that amount should be stereotyped for them as a start-off—that being granted to them as the amount of the business they did in a particular year before this type of thing was thought of. My idea was that it would be only fair that they, having worked under normal conditions for a certain period, should have that continued even under the later conditions.

The object of the other amendment is to see that whatever percentage should turn out to be the correct figure for a particular period should be taken into account, supposing the same people remained in the business. The object of the amendment is that there should be a proportion according to the amount they did. There will be different categories of minor curers, we may presume. Some of them will go up into the class of big curers, but others will move out altogether, and I gather that most of them will move out; but it might have to be further determined what exactly should be the proportion between them. The main thing is that a group of people, who are known as minor curers, should have some kind of stabilisation according to whatever their interest was in this whole business, and that some allowance should be made, in the percentage allocated, for the weakening of ordinary trade conditions, but that certainly allowance should be made for any coercion that might be put upon them by means of the Act.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy made a statement, starting off, that this Bill was definitely more in favour of the larger curers. That statement has been made by other Deputies, but no section or sub-section from the Bill has been quoted in support of it.

It was the Minister said it himself.

Dr. Ryan

No section of the Bill substantiating that statement in any way has been quoted.

The Minister said it himself.

Dr. Ryan

That this Bill favoured the larger curers? I am surprised to hear that.

Did the Minister not say in his introductory speech that the Bill was drafted for the elimination of the minor curers?

Dr. Ryan

So that they might become licensed curers. They become licensed curers when they cease to be minor curers.

The Minister said he wanted to get rid of them, that they were too many.

Quite the contrary.

Dr. Ryan

I might have stated at some stage of the discussion that the tribunal which sat on this question said that, in their opinion, there were too many factories in the country but, as far as legislation goes, in either the Principal Act or this Bill, there is nothing to put a minor curer out of business. A minor curer has a perfect right at the end of the period to become a licensed curer. There is no justification for the statement that the Bill militates against the minor curer as compared with the larger curer. The only difference it makes is that, if he does wish to go out of business, he will be compensated —but only if he wishes to go out.

There is a considerable amount of misapprehension in the country on that point.

Dr. Ryan

I know there is.

If the Minister, in a few sentences now, would make the position clear, he would be doing a good service. If he would state that it is intended to compensate people who wish to go out of business—just in a few sentences—it would allay a good deal of misapprehension.

Dr. Ryan

I quite recognise there is a good deal of misapprehension on this matter, because Deputies in this House, on Second Reading, made their speeches as a result of reading in the papers what minor curers said and not as a result of reading the Bill. This Bill makes no change, except that if they opt to go out, they must get compensation. If they do not opt to go out, they must become licensees, and nobody can prevent their becoming licensees. When they become licensees, as the Bill stands they will get a quota equal to that of the smallest licensee at present. Coming to Deputy McGilligan's amendment, if any minor curer becomes a licensee, and gets a quota equal to that of the smallest licensee, his condition will be considerably improved over what it was in 1935 because during the qualifying period, if any factory manufactured more than 2,200 cwt. of bacon, the proprietor automatically becomes a licensee under the Principal Act. Any factory proprietor that manufactured less than 2,200 cwt. but who carried on business for 45 weeks, was entitled to become a minor curer. The minor curer, therefore, did in fact manufacture less than 2,200 cwt. of bacon but, even so, under the Principal Act — and it is not changed under this Bill—his quota when he becomes a licensee will be brought up to that of the smallest licensee. He is automatically getting better terms under the Principal Act than any other curer. He is getting more than his proportion when he becomes a licensee, but to take an arbitrary figure of 7½ per cent. or 5 per cent. would be treating the minor curers very much better even than was proposed in the Principal Act.

I do not know, if we take the 1935 figures, what it would be, but it would be considerably less than what they did in the last 12 months. The majority of the minor curers have expanded their business considerably in the last 12 months, because there was no restriction upon them whilst all the licensees were restricted in the amount of bacon they could produce. The minor curers could go out and buy as many pigs as they liked and have these pigs manufactured into bacon. On the whole they extended their business considerably, and yet in the last 12 months they only did 2.8 per cent. of the whole business. They had therefore no claim to anything like 7½ per cent. or 5 per cent. I think they are very generously treated by the Dáil under the Principal Act when they are guaranteed a quantity at least equal to the smallest licensed curer.

The Minister says that the minor curers did 2.86 last year.

Dr. Ryan

For the 12 months up to the 28th February last.

Does he make any allowance for the fact that at least three, or I think four, did become licensees?

Dr. Ryan

Not during that period.

Comparing the output of the minor curers for that period with the previous period, is it not a fact that in the previous period there were certain persons minor curers who in the period now referred to had become licensees?

Dr. Ryan

That is not so. The present class, known as minor curers, did 2.86 of the business in the 12 months ending the 28th February last.

And that includes the four men who graduated from that category?

Dr. Ryan

No. They were licensees all that time.

Were they licensees in the previous period? I do not think so. They were minor curers who graduated during this period. The Minister describes them as doing 2.86 of the business. Now, 2.86 may sound very small, but as a matter of fact 2.86 is not a disreputable business for a group of small men to do. I know a considerable factory which did only 5 per cent., and if you told anybody that it was only manufacturing 5 per cent. of the total output, they would think that it was an insignificant unit, but it is very far from it. The situation in the bacon industry is that you have three or four men doing about 70 per cent. of the business, and the remaining 30 per cent. is divided amongst about 40 men, if you include all the minor curers.

Dr. Ryan

Not exactly.

If you take Denny's, O'Mara's and Lunham's, you will account for a very large proportion of the trade.

Dr. Ryan

It would be under 50 per cent.

It would be over 50 per cent.

Dr. Ryan

I do not think so.

I am sure of it.

Dr. Ryan

About 50 per cent.

It would be over 50 per cent. If you take these three firms you will find that I am right. I merely mention that to point out that although you may have a number of small men dealing with a small section of the trade, it is a good rule to provide for the distribution of the industry all over the country, to provide for the two-pig man who, when very often he cannot get a price for his pig from the big firm, finds a minor curer within a reasonable distance from his farm. One of the largest curers might be a rail journey away. So long as we had the minor curers in existence, they provided centres of manufacture where the small man could get, if he was hard pressed, a fair price for his pig. The Minister says that all these minor curers extended their business so far as they could. Does that apply to the four minor curers who took licences?

Dr. Ryan

They were licensees all that time.

They used to be among the minor curers. Those were the four minor curers who would ordinarily have progressed furthest, because they were the four largest of the minor curers. They were the leaders of that class. For some strange reason they did not foresee what would happen to them if they took a licence early on in the preliminary period. If they had remained minor curers during the preliminary period they could have extended their business indefinitely.

Dr. Ryan

Yes, during the period.

They need not have made any contribution to the hypothetical price fund, and could buy pigs at any price they liked.

Dr. Ryan

They are legally bound to make that contribution; at least it is held by the board that they are legally bound to make that contribution.

As far as I know, so long as they remained minor curers the board had no authority over them at all. I contend, with great force, that there was no compulsion on them to make that contribution, and they could pay any price they liked. They took licences, and the moment they took licences they came under the jurisdiction of the board. When the export quota licence was fixed at a higher figure—at 12½ per cent. higher than the original export quota—a corresponding amount had to be taken off the home-production quota; at the same time the supply of pigs began to dwindle, and you had a situation in which their quota was disproportionately reduced. That is a complicated calculation and we can elaborate it later on.

Would the Minister give me one figure? What is, in fact, the lowest sub-quota given to a licensee? That might go lower, but let us know what it is at present.

Dr. Ryan

It is 2,438 cwts. per annum.

How many pigs would that represent?

Dr. Ryan

You may take the figure at 1.1 cwts. per pig.

That is under 50 pigs per week?

Dr. Ryan

Yes, on the average.

Progress reported; the Committee to sit again to-morrow.