Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Onion Crop in Kerry.

asked the Minister for Agriculture (1) what is his estimate of the yield of the onion crop in the Castlegregory and Cloghane districts of Kerry; (2) what are the corresponding prices for onions in (a) Éire, (b) Northern Ireland, and (c) Great Britain; (3) if he is prepared to take measures to indemnify the growers for such trading loss as they suffer from not being allowed free export of their produce; (4) if he is aware that, at the present rate of buying and unless the ban on export be lifted immediately, there is great danger that the bulk of the crop may go bad and so become a total loss; and (5) if he is prepared in the circumstances to lift the ban.

The yield this season of the onion crop in the Castlegregory and Cloghane districts of County Kerry is estimated at about 1,300 tons. The wholesale price of onions in the Dublin market has varied from 16/- to 38/- per cwt. since the beginning of November. The price to growers in Northern Ireland and Great Britain is controlled at a maximum of 25/- per cwt. I cannot accept the suggestion that growers of onions in the districts referred to, who are not allowed free export, should be indemnified against trading losses.

The demand for onions grown in these districts has been reasonably good and more than half the crop has already been marketed. I am aware, however, that a proportion of the remainder still in the hands of growers may deteriorate more rapidly than in other seasons. In the circumstances I propose to grant export licences for limited quantities of such of these onions as are not of good keeping quality.

Am I correct in saying that the "limited quantities" referred to would amount to about 150 tons?

Yes, about 150 tons.

Supposing that, in the meantime, a quantity of onions go bad and, as a result of the lack of facilities for export, becomes unsaleable, will the Minister indemnify these people against such losses?

Oh, no.

Secondly, if it is necessary to keep onions in this country for supplying the towns, say, in the months of February and March, does the Minister not think that that is a burden which should be borne by the people of this country as a whole, and not by the growers in a particular district—that, since the onion is a national need, as it is, any loss entailed on the growers should be borne by the people of this country generally?

I must remember that the people of this country bore a bigger burden than the people of Castlegregory, and such districts, by helping them out in their difficulties, and surely these people should do their part now?

Is it not a fact that a certain small class of the community, during the present emergency, is being asked to bear the cost of what is actually a national need? Is it not true that one small group or class are being asked to bear a burden that should be borne nationally, since they are supplying a national need? This is a poor district, as the Minister himself knows, and will he not consider indemnifying these people for any loss they may suffer in this connection by making it a matter to be borne nationally, since they supply a national need? Is there any reason why one class of the community should be asked to bear the whole loss?

There are a good many producers in this country who, if they were allowed to export their goods, would probably get more for them than they would by selling them at home, but if it is necessary for us to keep these commodities here—particularly in view of the fact that we gave a great deal of help to these people formerly—then I think it is not unfair that they should be asked to bear their share of the cost now.

You are taking away from them now what you say you gave them then—and this in the present emergency, in a poor district.

As it is now five minutes past four, no further supplementary questions will be allowed to-day.

In that case, Sir, as it is not possible for me to ask any supplementary questions on my question, No. 50, I do not propose to ask it to-day and, with your permission, will repeat it to-morrow.