Since I spoke on this matter last week some changes have occurred. The price of wheat has been increased, but not in my opinion sufficiently to cover the danger which threatens this country. I have here a rough table of figures as to how the wheat last year worked out. We paid roughly £7,765,000 for wheat altogether. Of that, 290,000 tons were produced by the farmer, according to the Minister's figures, at £4,640,000, and, before one bit of that was milled, £725,000 had been drawn by agents and other parasites. No matter how things work out this year the wheat will cost us £1,000,000 more, even though last year's acreage is grown in full by the farmers. I do not believe it will; I think that, even at 45/-, we will not get last year's acreage, in view of the shortage of artificial manures. I am estimating 240,000 tons at £18 a ton, which will amount to £4,320,000. The agents' fees will be £600,000, and you will have to import 130,000 tons. If we import it at the Minister's figure of £30 a ton, that will be £3,900,000 to the foreigner. What I had in mind was the growing of 330,000 tons of wheat here by the Irish farmer at £20 a ton. That would cost £6,600,000. Let us import nothing except what we require, namely, about 40,000 tons of hard wheat, which the nice people in Dublin and the nice people in Cork and other cities say must be mixed with the bread to make it palatable for them. Let us give them their 40,000 tons at £30 a ton. That will cost £1,200,000 and drying and commission will amount to £825,000. That will mean that our wheat will cost £8,625,000, but it will cost it with this difference, that instead of paying £3,900,000 to the foreigner we will be paying portion of it to our own farmers at home. I know there is a certain risk, the risk that even at 50/- the farmers would not grow the quantity required. I suggest to the Government that if the farmers grow 330,000 tons of wheat—which would mean that only about 40,000 tons would have to be imported—the Government should guarantee them a price of 50/- a barrel, the understanding being that if they do not grow it they will not get that price. It is a gamble both ways, but it is giving the farmers of this country an incentive to grow more, the incentive that they will be paid for their labour.
I know the agricultural community are sufficiently nationally-minded not to look for any great profits during the war, but we have got to face the position that they will have very little artificial manures to grow these crops. I suggest to the Government that it would be very good business to offer that incentive now to the farmers. I suggest that they should say to the farmers: "If you leave us with a gap in our wheat requirements of 40,000, 50,000 or 60,000 tons—a gap that could be filled by wheat produced here—you will get 45/- per barrel, but if you fill that gap and if you save us from the necessity of paying a couple of million pounds to the foreigner for imported wheat we shall give you a bonus of 5/- a barrel on your wheat." I put that forward as a proposition here before and I think it is a fair and reasonable one. I am afraid the Minister has been led away in this matter by the catch-cries of certain ranchers in Cork who never did any tillage and never would till anything unless they were forced to do so. We had the leader of the so-called Farmers' Party down there last week speaking on a motion before the Cork County Council asking for a bonus of £2 per acre on grassland that has been broken up. Do you think that he had any sympathy with the man who had been tilling all his lifetime? Not at all; he only wanted the rancher to get his pound of flesh. I am afraid the Minister has been working on that figure of £2 an acre. I would suggest that it would be very good business for the Government to say to the farmers: "Very well, you save us from the necessity of importing wheat and we are prepared to give you a great portion of the amount we would have otherwise to pay the foreigner for imported wheat."
There is one other matter that arises under this motion and I should like as briefly as possible to deal with it, namely, the price of beet. When we complain of the cost of artificial manures, we are told that the prices of raw materials have gone up and, therefore, Messrs. Goulding must still get their pound of flesh. The price of artificial manure has gone up for the farmer by at least £2 per ton this year.
The cost of labour for pulling the beet has also gone up. Freightage has been increased by the railway company and carriers in general. In all, the costings have gone up on the farmer by about roughly 9/- per ton. I should like to know from the Minister from what source that 9/- is to be forthcoming. Surely our industry is as much entitled to have these extra costings considered as either the railway company, the artificial manure manufacturers or the merchants? A case has been made and figures have been put to the Minister already, and I suggest that the farmers who are tillers of the soil and who are growing beet in order to supply sugar for the country are at least as much entitled to recover their expenses as the bloated aristocrat who is marked down as receiving 6 per cent. on paper but who receives 25 per cent. otherwise. The time for this debate is, unfortunately, limited. I do not think there should have been any limit on it as it is a very important matter, but, since such a limit applies, I shall not waste the time of the House by speaking longer.