I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
The purpose of this Bill is to repeal Section 8 of the Agricultural Produce (Cereals) (Amendment) Act of 1956, so as to abolish a statutory concession which has been much abused in recent years, under which quantities of flour or wheatenmeal up to 300 lbs. in weight could in certain circumstances be imported without a licence.
The Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Act of 1933 as amended and extended by subsequent Acts was intended to ensure as far as possible that flour consumed in this country should be milled at Irish mills from wheat grown by Irish farmers. Provision was accordingly made in these Acts to prohibit the importation of flour from abroad, except under authority of a licence granted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
In 1947, when flour was scarce, it became a common practice for people in the United States of America to send or bring gifts of flour to their friends in this country. To facilitate the entry of such gifts, an Emergency Powers Order was made permitting the importation of flour in quantities of up to 300 lbs. provided it was (a) carried as private effects in passengers' baggage or (b) shown to the satisfaction of the Revenue Commissioners to have been sent by a person who was not a trader dealing in flour or wheatenmeal as a gift to a person in the State. This import concession was continued in permanent legislation in Section 8 of the Agricultural Produce (Cereals) (Amendment) Act, 1956. Representations have been made to the effect that the concession has been abused and should be withdrawn, as it is causing serious loss of trade to flour millers and retailers in this country, particularly in the County Donegal area.
To determine the justification for these complaints special surveys were carried out by the Revenue Commissioners. These indicate that unlicensed imports of flour from the Six County area increased from 1¾ tons per month in September, 1958 to 6 tons per month in March, 1959; 17 tons per month in March, 1960, and 27 per month in March, 1961.
An important aspect of these imports is that the imported flour is flour which has been milled from cheap foreign wheat and that the Irish millers who are obliged to include a proportion of native wheat in their grists could not hope to compete in price with such imported flour.
In view of the increasing extent to which this concession is being used for importation of cheap flour from the Six Counties and the adverse effects which such imports will have on the flour milling industry in the State and especially in Co. Donegal, the Government considers that this concession should be withdrawn, by the repeal of Section 8 of the Act of 1956.