asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the immediate and urgent need for an extensive expansion in the productive capacity of agriculture for the purpose of increasing our exports, he will consider the desirability of providing cheaper and better credit facilities for farmers who wish to improve the fertility of their land, or to provide better housing and equipment on their farms.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Farmers' Credit Facilities.
While I am aware of the need for expanding agricultural production, I am not aware that existing credit facilities for farmers are inadequate. The difficulties in the way of increasing agricultural production at present arise not from any lack of money or credit facilities but from a scarcity of materials, machinery and fertilisers.
The provisions of the Agricultural Credit Act, 1947, which came into operation recently, have widened considerably the field of operations open to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I do not consider that the rate of interest charged by the Corporation is an obstacle to expansion in agricultural output.
The Housing Bill which has been circulated by the Minister for Local Government will give greatly increased assistance for the building and reconstruction of farm houses.
Arising out of the Minister's reply, is the Minister aware that it is practically impossible, if a farmer has not extensive security, to obtain financial facilities from the Agricultural Credit Corporation? Is he not also aware that the rates of interest charged by the Agricultural Credit Corporation are to-day far in excess of the rates of interest at which money is provided for other local purposes? Local authorities can obtain money at a much cheaper rate than the farmer can for the extension and development of his industry. Surely the Minister must realise that there is urgent need for reduction in the rate of interest for loans for agriculture.
I am not aware that it is difficult for any credit-worthy farmer to obtain a loan from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. With regard to the question of interest, the difference between the rate at which money is borrowed by the local authorities and that at which money is advanced by the Agricultural Credit Corporation is so very small that it does not enter into the argument at all.
Surely the Minister must realise that while supplies of fertilisers and other commodities of that kind are scarce it is absolutely impossible for the farmer on the poorer land to obtain even the inadequate supplies that are available because he has not got the capital with which to do so and some help should be given to the man on the more improverished land.
The Deputy is making a speech.