Sugar (Prohibition of Import) Order, 1958—Motion of Approval.

I move:—

That Dáil Éireann hereby approves of the Sugar (Prohibition of Import) Order, 1958.

Deputies are aware that the Sugar (Control of Import) Act, 1936, empowers the Government to limit by order the importation of sugar under licence. Each such order operates for one year only so that each year at this time, for the past 23 years, a motion in these terms has been submitted to and approved by the Dáil. This is the annual motion designed to keep arrangements for the importation of sugar the same as they have been hitherto.

I should mention that since the matter was before the Dáil last year this country has become a party to the International Sugar Agreement. It did so in October of last year. The principal objects of that agreement are to maintain stable conditions in the world sugar market. The first International sugar Agreement was negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations in 1953. It was decided at that time not to adhere to it and that decision was reaffirmed in 1956 when an International Conference to consider amendments to the original agreement was held.

A new agreement has now been framed which does not differ in any substantial degree from the old agreement and we have decided to adhere to it because we found that last year our non-membership of the agreement was reacting unfavourably on our recently developed export trade in sugar. Indeed, towards the end of last year because of our non-participation in the agreement that trade was brought to a standstill.

The agreement requires countries adhering to it to buy sugar in certain circumstances only from those countries which have signed the agreement. In the circumstances now prevailing it seems to be in our interest to be members and, indeed, the circumstances which led to a decision otherwise in 1953 and in 1956 have also changed in so far as all the important sugar-producing countries, including Brazil and Peru, are now within the agreement.

I should like to ask the Minister a question. If we buy sugar we will buy it from the countries which are in this Organisation; are there any Iron Curtain countries in this Organisation?

I am told there are.

If we go into this Organisation and if there are countries in this Organisation which are Iron Curtain countries, even if the sugar is cheaper, we should not buy it from them.

It is we who have the sugar to sell.

But we import sugar too. We imported sugar last year. I asked the Minister a question last year about this and he practically denied that we were importing sugar from Iron Curtain countries. Evidently the Minister had not read a reply from the Taoiseach, in the form of a tabular statement; in which it was stated we had imported over 879,000 cwt. of sugar from Eastern Germany and Poland. I saw the sacks that came off the boats and I was told by people who are familiar with the language that the sacks were Russian in origin. If we join this Organisation and if we have to purchase sugar abroad, we should purchase it from countries outside the Iron Curtain. If we are not able to purchase it from them, then we should not purchased it from the countries. behind the Iron Curtain.

I have no objection to the importation of sugar provided our own people are first allowed to grow all the best they can here. It is not right that our own people should be prevented growing beet here when, at the same time, we import sugar from elsewhere. I object to any Minister or Government giving permission for the importation of sugar and, at the same time, refusing our own people the right to grow all the raw material needed either for our own domestic requirements or for our export trade. If the Minister is asked for a licence to import sugar he should make that licence contingent upon certain conditions. He should tell the applicant: "Give me a certificate first that you are taking all the raw material that can be produced here and, when you produce that certificate, I will give you a licence to import any sugar you may require. But, until you produce that certificate, I will not give you a licence to import as much as one ton of sugar." If the Minister does not do that, he will be failing in his duty.

He may contend that in order to provide for exports we must have cheap sugar. I do not regard that as an adequate excuse. Even if it is a little more costly, in the opinion of the Government, to produce sugar off our own soil, it must be remembered that it is a bit more costly to produce wheat off our own soil. It must be remembered, too, that it is a bit more costly to manufacture machinery in our own factories as against imported machinery. If imported machinery carries a tariff, I do not see why imported sugar should not carry a tariff also. I do not see why we should import sugar in order to have cheaper sugar for exports of chocolate crumb and so forth. Surely, it should be possible for the Government to meet the situation by means of subsidy. After all, the beet industry provides more employment than any other crop grown. It is giving employment to people who badly need employment. The Minister will be failing in his duty if he does not insist on the type of certificate I have suggested from the Irish Sugar Company that they are prepared to take all the beet grown before he issues a licence for the important of sugar.

Could the Minister say what percentage of the home market was supplied by the Irish Sugar Company in the last year for which figures are available; secondly, what quantity of refined and underfined sugar was imported last year and could he say also whether, for the purpose of the export, trade, we are using the Irish produced sugar, or the imported unrefined or the imported processed sugar, in the confectionery articles which are being exported from this country?

With regard to Deputy T. Lynch's point I think, if he studies the trade statistics, he will find that the bulk of the raw sugar imported here normally comes from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and countries in that part of the world but, in any event, that matter does not arise here. What we gain by this agreement, is the right to export sugar to countries which are parties to the agreement, in the circumstances where these countries would have to confine themselves to countries that where adhering to the agreement.

Deputy Crotty raised the point that he dealt with during the debate on the Vote for the Department of Industry and Commerce. Apparently he was not here when I was replying to the debate and did not bother to read the Official Report since. The position is that the Sugar Company is taking all the sugar beet they can handle and, for the first time, they are getting all they can handle. There is no sense in the Sugar Company taking beet from farmers when there is no sugar in the beet. From the 1st October to the end of December, or the beginning of January at the latest, is the season when sugar is in the beet, and that represents the limit of their capacity to buy sugar beet from the farmers.

They import raw sugar in the offseason and, by importing that raw sugar, not merely do they made it possible to supply all the requirements of sugar, both for home consumption and the export trade, but they are giving employment to workers in the factories during a period when they would otherwise be laid off. Certainly I see no objection to that, and it would be no benefit to the farmers to disemploy these workers and stop that method of operating because it would not enable the Sugar Company to handle any more beet during the season of the beet harvest.

The extent to which it would be possible for the Sugar Company to supply sugar to manufacturers of sugar products for export, at prices which would enable them to compete in export markets, is also a very relevant consideration. The Sugar Company is, of course, producing from the home beet harvest alone enough sugar to supply our home sugar requirements. The imports of raw sugar for refining here represent the quantity of sugar which is used here in manufacturing processes over and above our own needs of sugar products.

For re-export?

The bulk of the surplus sugar goes into sugar products like chocolate crumb, sweets and confectionery.

Is that the imported sugar?

Not necessarily. As the Deputy will understand, there are certain situations which exist and which require that the sugar should be of Irish origin to secure certain preferential rights in some markets and, naturally, only Irish sugar can be used for that purpose. There must be a certificate accompanying the consignment of goods stating the origin of the sugar. This price arrangement which enables the company to say to a manufacturer "You can get your sugar for the export trade at the same prices as if you were free to import it from any part of the world" is conditional on their present method of operation continuing and while, no doubt, prices of sugar in world markets fluctuate from time to time and it is not always correct to say that raw sugar can be purchased abroad and refined here giving sugar at a price lower than the sugar produced from Irish grown beet. That happens to be the situation now and, of course, this agreement I refer to only comes into operation and these restrictions on the right to export apply only when sugar is below 4 cents per lb.

Does the Minister say exporters of Irish confectionery products are now, on the average, getting their sugar at a price equivalent to that at which they could import it from the world markets?

That is right.

Do I understand the Minister to say that the workers——

I would point out to the Deputy that the House is not in Committee.

Do I understand the Minister to say the workers will get more employment by refining raw sugar than refining beet?

The point I am making is that the imports of raw sugar take place at a time of the year when, if that business were not done, the factories would be closed down.

Could the Minister not come out in the open and say he wants cheap sugar?

Would it not be sufficient to grow a quantity of beet for our home needs?

What is true at the present time is that the factories are producing all our home requirements of sugar. They are doing that from native beet alone. The quantity they are getting out of the native beet harvest is meeting our home requirements for the first time. They could handle more native beet if they could organise earlier deliveries, but Deputies must understand they must have a quantity of beet in stock before they can start the continuous process of extracting sugar. Normally they cannot do that before the 15th or the 20th of October, but if they could get a stockpile ready to start operations on the 1st October they could take more beet from growers.

Might I remind the Minister that he has not made any references to the point I made?

So far as restrictions are concerned, so far as import regulations are concerned, the Sugar Company are free to buy sugar whereever they wish. What I said is that their normal source of raw sugar is Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil and so forth.

With all respect the reason I mention this is surely that the Taoiseach did not give me wrong information.

The Dáil is not in Committee and Committee Stage speeches are not permissible on the motion.

Question put and agreed to.

This is no laughing matter. You will probably buy Hungarian sugar from the people who were butchering the Hungarian nation.