Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Sugar Supplies.

8.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will make a statement on the availability of sugar supplies and the reason for the present decrease in the acreage of sugar beet.

I am satisfied that Comlucht Siúicre Éireann Teoranta have provided, and will continue to provide, supplies of sugar sufficient to meet the country's normal requirements.

The decrease in the acreage of sugar beet planted this year compared with last year is due to a number of factors such as the bad weather during the sowing season which delayed ploughing, the increased numbers of cattle being carried on farms and the relative attraction of other competing farming activities.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the European Commission expect that Ireland's beet acreage next year will be sufficient to meet their quota?

I cannot anticipate that.

I can tell the Parliamentary Secretary——

Can the Deputy tell us why he voted against the green £?

If it were not for Fianna Fáil there would be no green £.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the difficulty being experienced not only in this city but in a number of provincial towns in obtaining sugar supplies? The housewife is being rationed.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary indicate what price adjustment will be made in relation to the price of sugar beet in the coming year in view of the increases in inputs?

That seems to be a separate question.

Apart from any other increase it costs £40 more per acre for fertiliser.

The question relates to the availability of sugar. Question No. 9.

Will there be a sufficient increase in the price of sugar beet to meet these increased production costs?

In order to conserve sugar supplies and to ensure equitable distribution, the Sugar Company introduced a quota system in February last whereby each of the company's customers was allocated a quota for each month equal to the amount purchased by him in the corresponding period in 1973. The company maintain that there is no real shortage of sugar here and they continue to release sugar on the home market at levels greater than their 1973 sales. We must have become more sweet-mouthed in recent months because in respect of September of this year, the most recent month for which I have information, there were released 14,738 tons of sugar by the Sugar Company compared with 13,626 in September of 1973. The figure for August of this year was 15,499 tons compared with 14,752 in the corresponding month last year.

This is all very interesting.

Therefore the quantities made available by the Sugar Company this year are in excess of those released in the corresponding periods last year.

Despite what the Parliamentary Secretary claims to be the position—and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of what he is saying—has the Minister taken any steps to prevent the illegal export of sugar to Britain? This important question is being asked by the public and by the Press but it has not been answered.

No Minister condones the illegal export of sugar or of any other commodity.

Apart from not condoning it, is anything being done about it?

There is a possibility that people visiting here may have taken sugar with them to Britain on their return.

Next question, please.

Is that all that the Parliamentary Secretary's investigations have discovered?

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say——

We must move on. The Chair has given a lot of latitude on this question.

All I can say is that more sugar was released this year than last year.

It has not gone to the housewife.