Public Business. - Pigs and Bacon Bill, 1940—Committee and Final Stages.

Bill considered in Committee.
Sections 1 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed—"That the Bill do now pass."

I am reported in the Official Reports as saying, when I was last referring to this Bill, that owing to the microscopic changes taking place in the situation, where, in fact, I said that, owing to the kaleidoscopic changes that were taking place in the situation, the Minister could not be extensively found fault with if a straight and clear line of policy could not be detected in the orders that he made from day to day. I want to repeat that now, but I think that the Minister should bear in mind that one of the results of the necessity for mending his hand at frequent intervals, as a result of circumstances in Great Britain over which he has no control, is to create a very considerable measure of confusion in the public mind. I appreciate that it may not be possible to give a full and reasoned explanation of each change that is made lest embarrassment should be created with the other party to the agreements which we have to make from time to time.

Three weeks or perhaps a month ago all the bacon factories were bitterly complaining that their stores were packed, that they could not take in any more bacon and that they could not accept pigs. Within the last three or four days the situation has radically altered and we are moving into a period in which it might be necessary to place some restrictions again on exports of bacon. The Minister will realise that the putting of restrictions on exports last January was followed by an immense glut of bacon in the factories and a refusal to accept pigs. If, as a result of the agreement recently made, there is an immense exodus of bacon, it is conceivable that another restriction will be put on which will give rise to a cry from those who will anticipate a similar result to that which arose subsequent to the Minister's January restriction order.

Am I correct in saying that, if the situation remains substantially as it is to-day, we may expect a demand for pigs and bacon in this country greater than our probable capacity to produce and that, therefore, any person who has barley or other foodstuffs on his own land may look forward with confidence to their profitable realisation as a result of feeding them to pigs? My reading of the situation is that there will be a remunerative price and a virtually inexhaustible demand for pig products unless there is some revolutionary change in the international situation during the next 12 months. I think the Minister would do well if he would forecast for us to-day what plans he has in mind, firstly, to deal with the oat surplus to which I referred on an earlier stage of this Bill and, secondly, to indicate to pigs feeders what the probable situation will be in regard to Indian meal supplies next autumn.

I want to renew to-day the suggestion I made a week ago, that a maize meal mixture scheme on the lines outlined by me should be announced. I do not think a Bill will be necessary to do this. I think an order can be made requiring the millers to consign with each parcel of Indian meal a parcel of ground oats or barley and the proportion of ground oats and barley associated with the Indian meal can be varied from time to time in accordance with expert advice and the exigency of supply. It is vital to the success of the pig industry that that should be done in the very early future, and it is vital to the success of the general agricultural policy of the country that the carry-over of surplus oats from this season into the new season should not be allowed and that the old oats should be disposed of before the new oats come on the market. If you do not do that, you are going to have a collapse in the price of oats for the first three months of the new harvest year, with the result that every small farmer who cannot wait to cash his crop is going to get it in the neck, and it will be virtually impossible to persuade these people to sow cereal crops in the ensuing harvest. Those are matters of the most urgent and vital importance and they should be dealt with forthwith. I would be grateful if the Minister would give some indication of the line we ought to pursue in the country in regard to these matters.

Speaking here the last day, I said I was not in a position to say anything in connection with the future of our exports of bacon. Since then the British Government have agreed to take 60,000 extra cwts. of bacon. The price is not yet determined. The old contract of 500,000 cwts. per year, at a price of 133/6d., or a price related to what British factories get for their bacon, continues and the 60,000 cwts. will be in addition to the old quota. Unfortunately, I have not found it possible to get the British Government to discuss our quota from the end of August on, apart from the 40,000 cwts. per month that we have already, and therefore it is difficult under these circumstances to give any undertaking to pig producers that, in regard to all the pigs, a market will be found.

What does the Minister mean by the 40,000 cwts. We have already?

We have a quota of 500,000 cwts. a year, or about 40,000 cwts. a month.

Plus 5,000 cwts. per month now?

No; this 60,000 cwts. is to be filled in the next two months, in addition to the other quota. Beyond that there is no certainty of what we may be able to get rid of and, therefore, I am not in a position to assure farmers that their pigs will be taken in three, six or 12 months' time. It is a pity we cannot do that, but it is not within our control.

Does the Minister think the 60,000 cwts. can be filled?

Yes, I think so. The curers have given us a return of the stocks on hands and there is not the slightest doubt that the 60,000 cwts. can be filled without any inconvenience to our consumers here. The other point raised by Deputy Dillon was with regard to oats. On that I cannot say more than was said the last day. On that occasion I did undertake to go into this matter again, to see whether some scheme could be devised that would take the oats from the small farmers, especially those who have to get rid of their oats at the time of thrashing. Undoubtedly, there is a good deal in what Deputy Dillon says, that it is those smaller men in that position who generally suffer because the price comes down. A few months afterwards, when they have to buy feeding stuffs, they generally find that prices are high, so that they suffer both ways. I am having the suggestion made by the Deputy examined: that is of finding some method to require the millers to take oats and barley in proportion to the amount of maize meal they may be using. If that is considered to be the best means of dealing with this, naturally we will adopt it.

With regard to the imports of maize meal, I cannot say anything definite. I do not think that the Government is in any better position than the ordinary citizen to give an opinion on that: The whole matter depends entirely on how shipping goes in general. I suppose, to some extent, that will depend on how the sea war will go in general. The opinion of the ordinary citizen on that is perhaps as good as that of any member of the Government. We cannot give any forecast as to what our supplies of maize may be in the winter. Naturally, we will get all the maize that we can in. The indications at the moment are that the maize coming in for the next two or three months will probably be somewhat cheaper than it has been for the last three or four months, so that to that extent the rearing of pigs may be somewhat more profitable than it has been. It is, however, impossible to say what quantity of maize can be got in in the next three or six months.

I am sorry that the Minister should have committed himself, in such a vague way, on this matter, because the people are looking to the Government to give them some indication as to what they ought to do. We do not expect the Minister to be a prophet. What we are asking is, that with the information at his disposal and at the disposal of the Department of Supplies, he would advise the people what to do. Now, with the limited information at my disposal, I have no hesitation whatever in advising people to produce all the pigs they can. I may be wrong. All that I can tell them is that that is my view. It is my firm belief that it would be a wise thing to do. I think the Minister should take the risk of telling the people what they should do. I may be wrong, but yet, I think, that in all the circumstances the people are entitled to some kind of guidance. They ought to be told whether they should get out of pigs or produce all they can. As I have said, I have no hesitation in advising them that, to the best of my ability in summing up the situation, they should produce all the pigs they can. At the same time, I would be glad if the Minister would give his opinion on the matter.

With regard to the other matter, I fully appreciate the Minister's action in reviewing that situation. The small farmer will have his oats to dispose of next September after the thrashing. The real problem there is the oats that have been left on the small oat dealer's hands. There is a real problem there, and it is this, that the oats that have been left on the small oats dealers' hands from last year's crop should be got off the market either by exporting them or converting them into ground oats. If that is done, the problem will be very much simplified. The real menace is that the carry over of last year's oats will depress the market in September and October. If the carry over is taken off the market by someone now, then there will be virtually no problem next September or October. The problem is one that will require treatment. I want to warn the Minister that, if the carry-over is not taken off the market now, the steps requisite to deal with the situation next autumn will have to be of a very elaborate character. I do not believe they will be taken, and, therefore, there will be a lot of suffering and misery. The key to this problem is to get the carry-over off the market. If that is done the problem will be simplified in September and October.

I am sorry that I omitted to say, in connection with the oats situation, that we are dealing with the oats on the hands of merchants. As a matter of fact, it was the first matter that we got on to when considering the question of feeding stuffs—to see what could be done with the oats on the hands of seed merchants and others at the moment. That matter, as I have said, is being considered.

What is the Minister going to do?

I do not know what plan we may adopt. We will certainly have to come to some decision in the very near future.

Unless the Minister does something immediately, the new oats will be in.

With regard to the rearing of pigs, if I were asked for my personal opinion, and I have been asked for it in the last few weeks by some farmers, my advice to farmers would be "do not go out of pigs". That is only my personal view.

Has the Minister any estimate of the quantity of surplus oats on hands?

We have in the Department, but I have not the figures here.

I think it must be very heavy.

I know that in my part of the country we have very substaintial quantities of oats in every store.

It would not be very difficult to absorb what is there.

Question put and agreed to.