I am glad to hear that because, no matter what views the Minister may have of Deputies who speak from the different Parties here, having regard to the somewhat parlous situation that agriculture is in, even the most insignificant contribution here would be of benefit to him.
I want to start off by saying that the situation that exists in agriculture is not peculiar to this country. It is a recognised fact that in every country in the world the agricultural community find themselves in a difficult position. That is evidenced by the fact that all these international organisations to which we belong are continuously stressing the difficulties that farmers face and the fact that while incomes in all other sections are expanding, the farmer's income has remained static. It is therefore very satisfactory that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have produced a brochure in relation to the Report on Agricultural Policies in 1966 by the OECD.
The OECD, representative of 21 nations, of which we are one, have produced an overall review of agriculture and it is about the most depressing document I have ever read in relation to agriculture. In effect, what it says is, briefly, that agricultural production should be reduced in as far as it is possible within the member countries. It also talks of technological advances, the reduction in employment and the taking of people off the land.
As the House probably knows, I had an opportunity over a great many years of representing Ireland at the Council of Europe in the Committee of Agriculture and I had many opportunities there to meet representatives of agriculture from various international and national organisations. I always found that the bureaucratic thinking in regard to agriculture predominated in all the reports issued whereas those who might be representative of agricultural production and agricultural organisations as a whole and of political bodies were careful to stress views almost directly opposite to those contained in the reports produced by these official bodies. The OECD seems to think that as long as we can take the people off the land and increase the size of farms, we will put agriculture in the same position as any other section of the community and give the people a decent standard of life. I regret to say that that seems to be somewhat the line of official thinking in this country today.
As I have said, national organisations and political organisations do not hold to that view. The majority of us feel that the background and the fundamental feature of agriculture, as it has been literally throughout the centuries, is the family farms structure. You cannot have it both ways.
This document, a synopsis, so admirably produced by the Department of Agriculture, in effect says: "Take the people off the land; make them more efficient; increase the size of farms." But, in the last paragraph it reverts, in order to save itself, to the absolutely contrary policy, which has been expressed by parliamentarians throughout the world, and says that we must preserve and maintain the family farm.
In the world of today, there is not only unparalleled hunger but unparalleled starvation. One-third of the people on the face of the earth are literally dying of starvation and two-thirds of the world's population are undernourished. Therefore, I cannot feel that any document produced by any economic organisation or national organisation makes sense if it advocates taking people off the land and, in effect, reducing agricultural production while that state of affairs exists.
I proceed from the OECD to another international organisation to which we belong, that is, the Food and Agriculture Organisation. From them, I am glad to say, emerges a policy that could appear to me to be of benefit to the world as a whole and to agriculture. They recognise the fact, as it is daily brought home to them by their numerous officials scattered throughout the world, that there is real, persistent and growing hunger and, in fact, starvation, in the world today and they have shown a semblance of a policy. Some years ago their policy was to endeavour to teach nations who were short of food and suffering from hunger and starvation how to feed themselves. That was known as their Freedom from Hunger Campaign. That campaign was put into effect and widely advertised throughout the world. Efforts were made to step up the production of these developing countries. That in itself was a desirable object and a fundamental in dealing with a situation which was threatening to cause a major catastrophe in the world and, in fact, has done so.
The organisation then began to realise, I am glad to say, after some time, that their campaign was not a success, that the countries concerned had not the necessary technological skill and a knowledge which would enable them to feed themselves. They produced a World Surplus Food Campaign in connection with which they asked for 100 million dollars to be contributed by the member nations of the FAO to try to feed those who were dying daily from hunger in various parts of the world. This country made quite a sizeable contribution to that campaign.
The reason I am stressing all this to the House is that I believe a reversal of policy is necessary, not only of national policy but of world policy, if we are to deal with this very difficult and dangerous situation in the world today.
The United Kingdom are spending a sum in the neighbourhood of £400 million in subsiding food production and all they have succeeded in doing is to destroy the markets of some of the people from whom they have heretofore bought food. The Federal Republic of Germany is spending enormous sums of money on the same projects with the same disastrous results to food-producing and exporting countries such as Ireland, France, Holland, New Zealand, Denmark and other nations.
To some extent this policy has been changed within the confines of the Common Market in that the Germans who were spending vast sums of money to augment prices within the confines of their territory were brought back in their prices under the agreement reached within the confines of the Common Market in their common agricultural policy. Therefore the move is an attempt to stabilise agricultural prices. Deputies may well say that if we withdraw all agricultural supports, the bottom will fall out of the agricultural market. That in itself is true, and if we are to endeavour to return to a free market in agriculture, in other words if our agricultural products are to find their own level instead of the situation where the wealthy nations are able to pay big sums to keep their farmers in affluence and small nations have to struggle alongside and subsidise heavily to export, we must have some interim policy.
I am submitting this suggestion to the Minister and his advisers for whatever it is worth. All countries who recognise the need for stable agricultural markets and the need for utilising all the money available today in agriture for the purpose of stabilising food prices and keeping them at a proper floor level, should, by international agreement, contribute a certain sum of money, if necessary by taxation, in proportion to their national wealth and according to their ability to pay, to buy food and put that food under international control in order to have some sense of proportion in its distribution throughout the world. I make that suggestion for three reasons. First of all, if the food produced today is, by international agreement, to be distributed among the people who want that food, who have the bare means of existence and who in many cases are starving, it will increase demand, and by increasing demand, will stabilise prices. It will give the people who are to get that food the means and the right to live. It will put them into a position to develop their own economy, because no nation can develop when its people are practically starving.
Secondly, by doing that, I believe we shall contribute greatly to peace and goodwill in the world as a whole, that we shall stop what is threatening today, the early signs of which are already here, what is known as pressure of population. We already have it to a large extent in the United Kingdom ; people are exploding from the territories in which they live in the search for food. People may well say this is just nonsense, that there is no real sign of that yet. It has begun in Britain where people have come to take up professions. The system in Africa is that a local contribution is made by the village and the bright boy is then sent over and takes a degree in some profession. He comes to the United Kingdom and not only to the United Kingdom but to other countries as well, from these territories where they have not sufficient food, and subsequently colonies follow him in search of food. That is what is going to happen unless we in the western nations face this crisis realistically and are prepared to club together to buy the necessary food. Unless we are prepared to do that, chaos will continue in the world.
We had a full-blooded agreement made by the Parliamentary Secretary's Government with the United Kingdom, the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement under which Britain guarantees to buy whatever store cattle we have at our disposal. I forget the actual figure but it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 600,000 per annum, and they guarantee to take from us 25,000 of processed beef. We were told enthusiastically and somewhat foolishly by the then Minister for Agriculture that the price of cattle would go up and that for the farming community everything was to be lovely in the garden from then on. There would be no further problems. This Trade Agreement came into effect something less than 12 months ago. I do think that even the most biased supporter of the Government must recognise the fact that as far as long-term stability is concerned, it has been a complete and utter failure from the word go.
In the Dáil recently the Minister was questioned by Deputy Clinton in regard to his relations with the British Government and about his recent review of the situation with the British Minister for Agriculture in the light of the fact that prices had become almost catastrophic in the past three or four months, with the exception of a very short period. I asked him if he had endeavoured to get a larger quota for processed meat and the reply was that he had endeavoured to do so but had failed. That is the one feature of this Agreement that I can see would be of any benefit to the Irish economy. We made an Agreement with the British under which we have guaranteed to sell them every store we have available on the land, and, as I read the Agreement, if we do not fulfil our obligation in regard to sending stores to the United Kingdom, the two Governments meet to have a further discussion on the matter.
I had a question asked in both Parliaments: I had a question asked in the British Parliament and a question asked in Dáil Éireann in relation to the trade of stores between this country and the United Kingdom, and the lamentable fact emerges that we shipped less stores to the United Kingdom since this Trade Agreement started than we did before. It is the old story that goes back to the OECD from whom we received a sound bit of advice, not to put all our eggs in the one basket. That is what we have done and that is the weakness of our cattle trade at the present moment.
The position is simply this. When the British want cattle, they buy them, and the proof is there. For a short period when the weather got a bit warmer in April and it was envisaged that there would be plenty of grass available here for the absorption of livestock and the same in the United Kingdom, the price went up; the price was good. Everybody was satisfied, but about a fortnight to three weeks afterwards the British had filled their immediate requirements and the bottom went out of the market. Therefore, I want the Minister and his advisers to take a very careful, long-term look at the agricultural situation.
I do not think even the most enthusiastic supporters of the Parliamentary Secretary's Party can be satisfied with the agricultural position as it is now. They certainly cannot be satisfied with the beef trade. Neither can they be satisfied with the gradual reduction of manpower on the farm. Neither can they be satisfied with the overall increase of 2½ per cent in agricultural production. Even though there appear to be no marketing facilities in the offing, or certainly no suggestions to that effect, it is desirable that agriculture should be in a sound, healthy state, in a position to produce more and produce it more economically.
The Government must take a new look at the situation and find out what other countries are doing and what they are beginning to do. Industrial production and agricultural production must be planned in the one channel. We can go on exporting store cattle to Britain so long as Britain wants store cattle. I hear people say that, if Britain goes in, we go in to the EEC. That is a parrot cry in relation to agriculture and not alone by the Government but by a great many other people. Another parrot cry is that, even if they do not go in, we will go in and, if we do go in, the British will raise tariff walls against us. Will anyone of commonsense tell me that the British, who will go on requiring our store cattle, will put a tariff on those cattle if we go into the EEC and they do not? If they put on such a tariff, that is their own affair, but where, in the wide world, will they get store cattle, except from the Irish farmer?
Whether we like it or not, we shall have to change our agricultural policy. We shall have to plan our industrial policy, remembering that in a free trade area, we will have to put ourselves in a position in which we can sell the finished product rather than the raw material, even though that raw material may be rather advanced raw material. That brings me to the question of milk. Our greatest export is beef. We heard a good deal in the past about the ranchers and the graziers. Beef pays its way. It is beef that helps to stabilise our balance of payments and we must keep ourselves in a position in which we can go on producing and selling beef. Today we have a higher production of milk. The question is are we going to continue to subsidise milk? Any extra help given to the Irish farmer invariably produces an outcry from the urban dweller. That is understandable from a human point of view because it is the Irish farmer who produces the food the urban dweller has to buy.
I referred at the outset to the fact that there are hungry people in the world today. We should adopt some scheme, preferably an international scheme, which will enable us to transport nourishing food to those in need of it. One of the ways in which we can do that is by processing milk. Processed milk is one of the easiest and cheapest foods to transport. If we are to increase our agricultural production, as assuredly we must, and if we are to continue to enjoy the standard of living we have, then we will have to increase vastly our milk production. There are two things we can do. We can subsidise milk in the certainty of continuing beef production or we can process milk and export the processed commodity to other parts of the world. I spoke earlier about hunger in the world and it is possible that some of those listening to me were under the impression that I was trying to show off my knowledge. I was not; I was merely trying to fit Irish agriculture into the overall pattern of world agriculture. There will have to be some new and very rapid thinking in the light of modern conditions.
There is a tremendous future for Irish horticulture. Horticulture lends itself to industrialisation. Up to a few years ago vegetables were sold fresh. Today they are processed and the finished vegetable is ready for the table. There is great scope in horticulture. Horticulture until recently was the cinderella of the Department. Now it is being transformed, largely due to the efforts of An Foras Tionscal. They have done a great deal of research. We have here an equitable climate and the means to grow the product. There is no reason why we should not process it. I do not say we can grow tomatoes as successfully as they do in Spain or the Canary Islands, where there is almost perpetual sunshine, something of which we do not see a great deal here, but we have a temperate climate, with no very high incidence of frost, and we have a longer period over which to grow these products. In the context of European agriculture, there is a great deal we should be able to do.
We will, of course, need a great deal of credit. Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary, who has had much more opportunities of hearing the debate than his immediate boss, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, will indicate to the House what has gone wrong with farm credit. How is it that, a few years ago, a farmer could apply for credit and get more or less reasonable credit to meet his requirements? In practically every case that comes to my knowledge at present, farm credit is refused.