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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 13 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 7

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Cereal Sowings.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if, now that sowings of wheat, on the basis of seed sales, are considerably down, he will announce no levy on wheat for this year and full payment to the farmers at harvest time.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he has yet any figures on sowings of cereals in 1969 and winter wheat in autumn 1968.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 11 together.

The indications from seed sales are that the wheat acreage this year may be about 10 per cent lower, and the feeding barley acreage about 8 per cent higher, than last year. The Deputy will appreciate that the official figures of acreage, prepared by the Central Statistics Office, will not be available for a couple of months.

I am unable to give a reliable estimate in regard to winter wheat or oats at this stage but I am advised that there has been a significant increase in sowings of winter wheat.

Even with a 10 per cent decline in the wheat acreage, on the basis of yields in recent years production would exceed the 240,000 tons required for flour milling and a levy would accordingly be necessary if the surplus was of milling quality. I do not, therefore, propose to take the action suggested by the Deputy.

Now that the Minister knows that there is a ten per cent decrease in seed sales could he decide not to do what he has said he will do, namely, pay the farmers only two-thirds of their wheat cheque at harvest time and the balance some time later, when the levy has been decided and deducted? Surely, there should be a broad approach to it? Seeing that we now know there is a huge decrease in the amount sown, the Minister could produce a provisional levy on the basis of which the farmers would be paid the entire cheque. The farmer has to pay for various things on 1st November—seeds, fertilisers and all the rest of the things that he pays for at harvest time. If the Minister gives him only two-thirds of his proper cheque, the farmer will be seriously discommoded. We should now do as before—estimate the levy, carry on until the following year, and adjust the amount, either plus or minus.

This was never done.

It was done.

Not at all.

The levy on wheat was struck before the harvest many times and collected——

It did not work.

Not at all.

It was done and it worked. What the Minister is saying is completely untrue.

The Deputy knows well that this is the only same or sensible method of applying the levy, the principle of which everybody agreed with when the power to do it was first introduced in our Act of 1958, I think it was. Now that we have found a way, it would be ridiculous at this stage, in the middle of the season, to abandon the idea and revert to what has proved itself to be completely abortive, unworkable and useless. Until we see what the circumstances are of this harvest and until we know that no levy is required, would it not be rediculous to say that we will not do as we propose to do? This would be crazy and I do not propose to be crazy in this matter.

Is the Minister aware that his own colleague did what he now describes as crazy, namely, estimate the levy and charge the levy on an estimated figure and find out what the error was and bring it in either as a credit for the next levy when it occurred, or as a debit? Does the Minister realise that he is describing his own colleague as crazy? He is looking at me—the Minister for Finance. Which way are you going?

The Deputy cannot get away from a silly suggestion by making that suggestion.

Then he is silly. He did it.

I did not.

Let the Deputy see what I am describing as silly. The working out over the years, including the attempt at estimating a levy, has been found to be totally unworkable and was changed six months ago. Now that we are trying the changed method, to revert to the former unworkable method is what I described as silly and it is the Deputy who is being silly in making this suggestion.

The farmer will get only two-thirds for his wheat.

The Deputy may not make a speech. Has he a further supplementary question?

No, Sir, but with your permission, I should like to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

The Chair will, communicate with the Deputy.

The levy was brought in when I was Minister for Finance.

We will look that up.