Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Market for Seed and Ware Potatoes.

Mr. Blaney

asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will give an assurance to producers that an economic market exists or will be found for all seed and ware potatoes held by them at the moment.

The Irish Potato Marketing Company, which I set up last year for the purpose of handling and developing the export trade in seed and ware potatoes, is doing everything possible to dispose of any surplus potatoes on the most advantageous terms. I would also like to stress that the present high cost of feeding stuffs affords farmers a favourable opportunity of disposing of surplus potatoes for the feeding of live stock.

Mr. Blaney

While that may hold good in the case of ware potatoes, it is hardly an outlet for potatoes which were grown expressly as certified seed potatoes.

The Deputy's question referred to seed and ware potatoes.

Mr. Blaney

Will the Minister not make some differentiation?

Perhaps the Deputy did not hear my reply.

Mr. de Valera

It is very hard to hear. Some of us do not hear.

The Irish Potato Marketing Company, which I set up last year for the purpose of handling and developing the export trade in seed and ware potatoes, is doing everything possible to dispose of any surplus potatoes on the most advantageous terms.

Mr. Blaney

Regarding the seed potatoes that are now held in the country, that is, any surplus seed that still exists, can we take it that a market is available for them?

I cannot give the Deputy that unqualified undertaking. All I can say is that every effort is being made to find a profitable market wherein to dispose of it.

Does the Minister not realise that if growers of potatoes were given to understand early in the season that there was a market for 50,000 tons of ware potatoes and if at this point we have exported only 6,000 tons odd, it is poor consolation to the growers concerned to tell them that they can go now and feed these ware potatoes to live stock?

There is no such allegation and the Deputy, I am afraid, is trying to be mischievous. There is no reason why 50,000 tons of ware potatoes should not be exported to Great Britain, unless Deputies in this House sponsor the case made by certain potato factors in Great Britain, that the potatoes are not of good quality. I intend to ship the 50,000 tons to Great Britain under the contract made with the British Ministry of Food.

That is all the information we have sought. It is now coming to the end of the season and only 6,000 tons, according to the Minister's own admission, have been exported so far. The Deputy asked the Minister for an assurance that the balance will be taken by Britain in a reasonable period, and the Minister's reply was to say that the farmers can feed them to live stock—in the middle of April.

The Deputy is quite misinformed as to what Deputy Blaney inquired. Deputy Blaney asked if I would give an assurance to producers that an economic market exists or will be found for all seed and ware potatoes held by them at the moment. I replied that the Irish Potato Marketing Company, which I set up last year for the purpose of handling and developing the export trade in seed and ware potatoes, is doing everything possible to dispose of any surplus potatoes on the most advantageous terms. I then went on to say:—

"I would also like to stress that the present high cost of feeding stuffs affords farmers a favourable opportunity of disposing of surplus potatoes for the leading of live stock."

Deputy Blaney then said:—

"But you are not asking the farmers to feed seed potatoes to live stock?"

I said that his question also applied to ware potatoes. I hope that farmers whose circumstances permit will use potatoes for feeding. I hope to ship the balance of the 50,000 tons to Great Britain. I hope to ship such seed potatoes as it is possible to dispose of in the countries that still remain open for the purchase of such potatoes.