Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 31 Jul 1935

Vol. 20 No. 11

Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) (Amendment) Bill, 1935—Second Stage.

Question proposed:—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As a result of the working of the Fresh Meat Act during the last four or five years it is felt that there is at least a strong administrative reason for bringing in some amendments. They are very simple amendments and they do not involve any principle. The simplest way will be to take each section of the Bill. Section 2 permits the examination of animals under the Fresh Meat Act without the payment of a fee. It is felt that in some cases this will be necessary, for instance, where a firm might be exporting only one particular organ of an animal and where it would not pay them to meet the fee for inspection. There was such a case last year. In one particular factory—it would not be desirable to mention the name—only the livers of the animals were exported and the fee for examination was more than 50 per cent. of the value of that particular organ and, therefore, it proved a nonremunerative business and it was discontinued. When the Bacon Act is in operation we will have veterinary surgeons examining the animals in any case and the Exchequer will not lose anything under this particular section. I do not think the section will be availed of to any great extent.

Section 3 removes an anomaly. Under the main Act premises were registered and the proprietor licensed. It has happened on a few occasions that the registration was withdrawn for some reason or other, but the licence still remained with the proprietor and the licensee was bound to pay a certain minimum fee each half-year. In two cases it was more or less due to an oversight, but we had to insist on the fee being paid although the man had actually gone out of business. Under this amending section, if the registration is removed the licence goes with it. Section 4 deals with the superannuation of officers. It was felt that officers acting under a local authority who give part of their time acting under the Minister for Agriculture in the administration of the Fresh Meat Act might thereby endanger their status with regard to superannuation. There is a similar section to this in the Pigs and Bacon Act. This is to make sure that these officers do not miss their superannuation rights if they happen to work from time to time for the Minister for Agriculture as well as for the local authority.

Section 5 refers to minor amendments in the Schedule and Sections 6 and 7 are merely formal sections. In the Schedule the various amendments look rather formidable, but I think we can dispose of them without very much trouble. The amendments to Sections 35 and 36 change the present definition of meat which is fit for human consumption. At the present time it is defined as free from disease. That is not altogether satisfactory because it sometimes happens that the veterinary surgeon may wish to condemn a quarter of a beast because of injury, perhaps an ante-mortem injury, and he cannot do so if the quarter is free from disease. We are changing the definition in order to meet such a case. Under the amendment to Section 36 he will be enabled to condemn meat because of malformation or not being properly developed, and so on, which he has not power to do at present.

The remaining amendments to the Schedule deal with one point and that is: that meat can be exported from any registered premises. The position is that meat must be exported from the registered premises in which the animal is slaughtered. There was a small trade started here last summer for offals to two Continental countries. It was rather difficult to develop that trade by asking each registered premises to send out direct the livers, hearts and tongues—those were the principal organs concerned—in small lots. It is felt the trade could be developed better if the offals could be collected and exported from the one place. The amendments amount to this, that fresh meat can be changed from one registered premises to another before being exported. That is the full effect of the amendments. That is all that the Bill deals with and there is nothing of any great importance.

There is a part of this Bill that I cannot understand and it strikes me as very unreal. Perhaps the Minister might explain it. We see in Section 2 "in the case of any person who held during such half-year or any part thereof a beef exporter's licence in respect of such specified premises ...." Since the 1st January, 1934, the export of beef has been prohibited and I cannot understand the application of this section, the withdrawing of a licence for the doing of something that could not be done, the export of beef to Great Britain, to Smithfield. I might mention that I was interested in a factory that exported something like 100 cattle per week. It did a very fine trade.

If you will allow me, Sir, I should like to read a paragraph from our report to the shareholders in June, 1934. It is of great importance. I was asked to bring it to the notice of the Minister on some appropriate occasion in the hope that we might get some of this trade back. The paragraph in the report dealing with this matter reads:—"We killed 1,261 cattle last year as compared with 169 the year before, and we would have more than doubled this number only for the prohibition against sending dressed beef to Britain coming into force on last January 1st. This prohibition order against dressed beef affected our suppliers and ourselves very badly. We were providing an outlet and obtaining very satisfactory prices, as ruling prices went, for about 100 cattle a week. This order broke up our organisation and reduced the outlet for our suppliers to the few cattle for which they could get quotas. We regret to say that, so far as we can see, there is no prospect of any change in the dressed beef situation in the near future, and must only hope that a change for the better will come soon."

I was asked to bring the matter to the notice of the Minister and the House here, in the hope that trade might be restored. I know there are big difficulties in the way of trying to secure that Great Britain would allow us to export these 100 or 200 cattle per week. This trade would not go on evenly for the whole year. In some weeks as many as 200 cattle came in. It would have been developed into something big were it not for the prohibition order. Some people did not believe that there was very much in it, but our experience proved that there was a great deal in it for the country as a whole. We directed our activities to cattle of the right sort. We exported nice, fat animals of about 5½ cwt. net. These carcases were dressed properly and exported from our factory in Waterford. They left a very good return in the way of profit, and there was ready sale for the cattle. These cattle were selected cattle and the suppliers were organised. We took none of the big six-cwt. or seven-cwt. cattle to which we had been accustomed.

It was principally in connection with the licences that are referred to in this Bill that I brought this matter before the House in the hope that something would be done to restore these licences, whether by means of intervention with the authorities on the other side or in some other way. I do not know if there is a hope that it can be done. At all events, we are now getting the quota for store cattle increased to 100 per cent., and, consequently, there is a hope that we might get this export trade restored through the intervention of the Minister and the Government. It would be a great thing for us in the South of Ireland because it would be an outlet for our smaller cattle. In our co-operative society we have 6,000 shareholders and all are of about the same denomination, averaging £10 each. The dressed beef side of it was the primary object of the factory. In the past in this business there was experienced a good deal of discouragement now and again. The societies had not organised proper supplies. They did not have the same means of organising as we had.

Coming to the Bill, it seems to me in connection with Section 2 that that section is unreal. I say that because it seems to withdraw something that is not here—that is the authority to slaughter and to send over dressed cattle to England. We are prohibited doing that since the 1st January, 1934. If there could be anything done to take away that prohibition and to restore that trade it would be a very big thing for our society, for those directly engaged in this business and for the country as a whole.

With regard to the question raised by Senator Dillon—the dressed meat business—I am afraid that that particular business has always been rather an uncertain item in this country even before there were any tariffs or quotas put on by the British. There were I think several attempts in the last 25 or 30 years to develop an export trade in dressed beef to Great Britain, but somehow or other it always failed. It has failed for a different reason now—the British Government has prohibited the import of fresh veal or fresh meat into Great Britain and as long as the prohibition remains it cannot be done. I think it unlikely that there will be any yielding on that point for the present. I do not know exactly what the reasons are but it appears to me that the principal reason for this particular prohibition was the question of employment in Great Britain. That had more to do with it than anything else. If there had been no question of a quota, I do not think there would be any objection to allowing in dead carcases instead of live cattle. But there was a very big increase in the export of fresh beef from this country, during the year 1933, and it was felt that that order prohibiting any further imports of fresh dressed beef was made largely owing to the question of employment in Great Britain. However, as far as the Government are concerned they will do everything possible to get a quota for fresh beef. With regard to Section 2, I want to tell the Senator that that section is not so much to deal with the British markets as it is to deal with the continental markets, somewhat on the same lines as Section 5.

When speaking a few minutes ago I mentioned that there was one particular firm last year that wanted to export one particular organ to the continental markets. There would have been some advantage in exporting that particular firm's output. This particular export was small, but even small things cannot be lost sight of. It is for that reason that the section was inserted. At the moment I do not think that section will be used because that firm is not anxious to develop the business now, and it is only in case the trade should arise again that the section has been put in. I think the Seanad will agree that a section like that is never likely to be used to any great extent, because the Minister for Agriculture has to get the consent of the Minister for Finance and very good cause has to be shown before the Minister for Finance will forego the fees that are payable in cases like that. I do not think any other point has been made with which I need deal.

While speaking a while ago, Senator Dillon referred to the exports of meat products to England. Is it not a fact that under the provisions of the Bill it is intended to export meat products to countries other than England?

The section does not deal with England alone.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Thursday, 1st August, 1935.