asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries the present position regarding the marketing prospects of home grown onions.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Onion Industry.
The existing prohibition on the import of onions which has continued since the 15th May, 1971, will be maintained until growers have had a reasonable opportunity to dispose of home grown onions of marketable quality.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that it is difficult to dispose of onions at a reasonable price at present and can he say what help growers can expect from the Department in this regard? Is it not true that, if and when we become members of the EEC, onions are out so far as Ireland is concerned?
That is not so. At present the home market for onions is protected. The Deputy has said that growers are experiencing difficulties now. When we are members of the EEC and have reached the end of the transitional period, I cannot see any reason why home produced onions should not be able to stand up to the competition of imported onions. I am referring now to home grown onions of good quality. I would not say that the growers have anything to fear.
What is the future for the onion industry? I am very interested in the answer because there are at least 230 acres devoted to onion growing in my constituency. The crop yields a production of about 3,000 tons and there are about 300 families involved. Since the onion industry was established in Kerry, growers have had protection for their market from mid-May each year until the crop had been sold in the following March or April. Now we are told that when we join EEC there will be no future for this industry because the embargo will be removed. We want a statement from the Parliamentary Secretary on this matter. The growers want to know what the future holds for them. There will be a free-for-all situation after January of 1973 and we are told that the tariffs will be reduced by 20 per cent until 1978. How will our people compete with foreign producers?
The Parliamentary Secretary does not know his onions.
Both Deputies Murphy and Spring have mentioned the difficulties of the onion industry at present. However, I am sure they would both agree that this difficulty has not resulted from competition from imported onions. Deputy Spring's statement that membership of the EEC will mean the end of the onion industry here is incorrect. I do not think that our membership of the Community will have any effect on good quality home produced onions.
Why, then, is there an embargo on imports?
I see no reason why the home produce should not be successful on the home market.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the embargo is imposed for almost the entire year and——
We cannot have a debate on onions at this stage.
I attended a meeting yesterday of growers from the Castlegregory area and these growers are told to get out of onions as quickly as possible. They could be given no guarantee for the future.
I would not agree.
asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he received a request to send an official from his Department to discuss the future of the onion industry with the Kerry Committee of Agriculture; if so, if he will make a statement on the matter.
In response to the request from the Kerry County Committee of Agriculture a senior officer of my Department attended a meeting of the committee on the 14th of this month.
That is the meeting I have referred to. The official concerned could give no guarantee for the future of the industry and advised growers to go into another line. This year I understand that the embargo will continue until the month of June. When there are difficulties now, how can the growers be expected to compete with foreign growers?
This would bring tears to the eyes.
I wonder whether we could get away from onions and move on to Question No. 35?
I wonder why we could not have more confidence in quality home produced onions.
We were told that the tariffs will begin to be removed in 1973——
That is correct.
——and that by 1978 they will be removed entirely. How are our growers to compete with foreign growers?
What advantage has any foreign grower got over us?
Would the Parliamentary Secretary move on to Question No. 35?