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Seanad Éireann debate -
Friday, 24 Jul 1942

Vol. 26 No. 23

Pigs and Bacon Commission—Motion (Resumed).

Mr. Johnston

Prior to the adjournment of this debate, I was dealing with the question of the difficulties of farmers and I was pointing out that the commission should fix two or three months in advance the price for pigs, seeing that the price of cereals is fixed. It is not a common practice but it has happened on one or two occasions in County Monaghan that there were surplus pigs and the local curers were not allowed to take those pigs because their quotas had been exhausted. The Pigs and Bacon Commission advertised that pigs would be taken by a representative of their commission. Two men came down from Dublin at the expense, as I am informed, of the taxpayers, and there were nine or ten pigs available for them which they handed over to the local factories to have converted into bacon which would be given to the commission for distribution and disposal. I want to press upon the Minister that one of the difficulties is caused by the fact that curers are not allowed to produce more bacon. They are confined to the production of a certain amount of bacon although the number of pigs in the particular area might supply much more than the factory would be allowed to take. It occurred some time ago, not recently, but it may occur again, that where the quotas of the local curers were filled, pigs were taken from Monaghan or Castleblayney and sent to Claremorris and to bacon factories in the south, with the result that the pigs depreciated and were injured and marked, some of them by whip marks, in that long journey. There was a consequent cut in the price of the bacon. I do not know if that is the case now but that did happen. It would be much better if the local curers were allowed to take the pigs, produce the bacon and hand the bacon over to the commission for distribution, where necessary. I think it would be better where there is a surplus of pigs in County Monaghan, to distribute bacon from County Monaghan rather than to distribute pigs from County Monaghan.

I have dealt with the point that the difficulty is not so much the fixed price as the insecurity of the position. One of the things that I would recommend for dealing with this question of the production of pigs and bacon and the improvement of the production is that a price should be fixed by the commission, say, three or four months in advance so that the farmer would know what he was going to get for his pigs. If he reared pigs or if he bought bonhams he would know that three months hence he would get a certain price for them. I would also recommend that a maximum price for bacon should be fixed that would be related to the fixed price for pigs, dead weight. It might be argued that if prices were fixed for pigs three or four months in advance and if, after that time, there was an increased price for the next three or four months, some people might buy pigs at the cheaper rate and hold them over for the purpose of selling them at the higher rate. I think that would be overcome by fixing quotas, and by fixing the price of bacon, in the same way that the price of flour, sugar, and other commodities have been fixed at the present time.

There is one other matter about which there has been a good deal of discussion in Monaghan. It was taken up at a county council meeting and, as a result of discussion there, a resolution was passed asking the chairman of the Pigs and Bacon Commission to come to Monaghan to discuss the position there. He did not give any reasons but he refused to come. If he had come he would have been in a position to hear directly from the producers what the position was.

Senator Crosbie pointed out the number of pigs produced in Cork and said it was the greatest pig-producing county in Eire some time ago, producing 2,000 or 3,000 a week, but that the supply of pigs has been reduced to a very small number. I do not know what Senator Crosbie's point was— whether it was that surpluses of pigs in other counties should be sent to Cork for conversion into bacon. I do not know what he had in mind but certainly, under present conditions, I would not recommend that pigs should be transported long journeys, particularly live weights, to any particular factory. I would remind Deputy Crosbie that in County Cork they have a beet factory and the opportunity of growing beet as a cash crop. They have land suitable for growing wheat for which there is a guaranteed price. There is very little land in County Monaghan suitable for growing wheat and one of the things they rely on there to make money to meet their demands is the production of pigs. From time immemorial it has been a pig-producing country. Small farmers and cottiers there produce two, three, four or six pigs. These are the people for whom I am speaking.

I think it is not beyond the powers of the Minister to fix prices for winter and summer. I think that was contemplated some time ago. If the prices were a little higher in summer and lower in winter it would be an encouragement to the farmers to produce more in the summer time and not have surpluses at another time. At the moment, of course, there are not many surpluses.

I do not agree with Senator Crosbie's motion that the Pigs and Bacon Commission should be suspended during the period of the emergency because that would mean that we would revert back to the system that obtained before this commission was set up. Some of the bigger factories who can afford to pay high prices will be giving bonuses and paying high prices, while other factories that are not in such a strong position will be able to give only a price that will enable them to produce the bacon.

I propose to address myself to the motion, and not wander as far as some other speakers have wandered. The motion sets out that the Seanad is of opinion that the operations of the Pigs and Bacon Commission should be suspended during the period of the emergency. First of all, we must ask ourselves what are the operations of the Pigs and Bacon Commission. So far as I understand them, they are the regulation of prices and the regulation of quotas of pigs to the different factories. If we adopt this motion; and if the Government put it into operation, I foresee a peculiar position arising. This morning we had a debate on the black market. I foresee the driving of the bacon industry into the black market if we allow these people with the greatest amount of capital behind them to pay whatever price they wish for pigs—in Senator McEllin's words, if we allow the fittest to survive.

Knowing human nature as we do, if an individual or a group of individuals forming a company pay a particular price for an article, it is quite natural that they will expect a profit on their investment. If the commission fix a maximum price for bacon, and the factories are allowed to pay for the pig, the raw material, a price higher than would pay them to sell the bacon at the controlled price, then it is obvious you will drive the bacon into the black market. From what we have heard sometimes in the other House, the people controlling the bacon industry are not so patriotic that they are going to lose thousands in order that people may have a rasher and egg for breakfast.

It is only natural to expect that if you allow them to purchase pigs at any price, the factories in a position to pay the highest price will get all the animals and you will then create the position that the small factories, probably long-established, and with the capital subscribed by the small farmers from the surrounding districts, will not be able to compete in the buying of pigs. If they attempt to purchase pigs at the prices offered by the larger factories, they will find that they cannot continue to do so over any lengthy period, with the result that when the emergency is over, you will have in this country only the larger factories functioning and the smaller factories completely driven out of business. That would be bad from the point of view of employment and also from the consumer's point of view. It is the duty of the commission to allocate whatever pigs are available in equal proportion to each factory. If we adopt the suggestion that the existing arrangement should be scrapped, and we allow the bacon factories, which are prepared to spend thousands, to capture the trade, we will simply drive other people out of the business. If the larger factories are prepared to spend their capital with the prospect that when the emergency is over smaller factories will not be in the business, then the consumer will pay in the long run for the action we are asked to take to-day.

The suspension of the Pigs and Bacon Commission is not going to have anything to do with the production of pigs. The only thing that will have an effect on the production of pigs is the quantity of food available for feeding to the pigs. It is true that in a number of instances people have grievances of the type referred to by Senator Johnston. There are people who take their pigs to the factory only to find that the quota is filled and then they have to take the pigs home again. I think if the Minister gave an undertaking that some of the grievances mentioned by Senator Johnston and other Senators would be considered, it would bring about a general feeling of satisfaction. Sometimes farmers are obliged to keep their pigs for a longer time than they originally intended, and in that way the animals move out of a particular grade and the price would be affected in consequence. However, these are small points and I believe they could be rectified by the commission.

It would be a good thing if it could be arranged that the grading system, if not abolished, might at least be modified during the emergency. I would not be in favour of the total abolition of the commission during the emergency. We have seen in the papers where some managers of factories have been brought before the courts for paying prices for pigs higher than those allowed by the commission. You cannot expect these people to keep selling bacon at the price fixed by the commission if they have to pay a high price to get the pigs. These people are not that patriotic. Some of them may be patriotic enough, but they are not going to lose thousands in order that we may have rashers and eggs for breakfast.

If you were to allow that policy to operate you may not close all the very small factories, but you will close a number of factories and when normal times return you will have one or two of the big combines, that were prepared to spend money during the period of the emergency, controlling the whole industry. That would be a very bad position, not alone for the consumer but, as will be admitted, for the producer of pigs. Indeed, in my opinion the position would be worse for the producer of pigs. The big combines would have considerable influence over the price of pigs because they would be the only people in the business and they would have full control of the situation.

This motion is a rather timely one. If the present situation in regard to pigs is allowed to continue, the stage may soon be reached when the commission will have no pigs for which to fix either a minimum or a maximum price. They will not even be able to fix a minimum penalty for anybody who contravenes their regulations. I think this is probably one of the most important problems confronting the country to-day. It is bound up, first of all, with the provision of farmyard manure. We cannot get artificial manure of any kind. Manure is absolutely essential if we are to meet our food requirements and if we are to get that further margin of tillage which we so urgently require. It is also bound up with the post-war plan which we were discussing yesterday and which ought to be taken in hands at once.

I listened to some of the other Senators and I heard Senator McEllin say that matters were under consideration. I felt that we were rather fiddling while Rome was burning very hard and that we were fiddling while we were bleeding ourselves. Senator Johnston gave us an excellent speech, but one had the impression that he was talking as if things were normal and as if our pig population was not dropping by 500,000, and bacon factories closing all over the place. There are some of which I have just heard which have dropped from 4,000 pigs a week to 500, and in view of this it seems to me to be very unreal.

The last thing with which the motion is bound up is the restoration of our export trade, and I propose to come to that again. The Minister said, quite rightly, yesterday that it was a matter of food to feed these animals, and he hoped that if barley production this year was greater, we would be in a position to feed an additional number of pigs, but over and above that, anybody who has anything to do with feeding pigs knows that if you want to feed a pig quickly and economically, you must have wheat offals with the barley and that then you will get your bacon quickly and in proper shape. It seems to me, therefore, that the restoration of this trade is the biggest argument for increased tillage at the moment which can possibly be imagined. It is not only an argument for increased tillage, but an argument for the supply of wheat offals from that tillage at a reasonable price, and finally for some export subsidy as well.

At this time, I do feel that we ought to take advantage of the world situation, not only on account of the present profits, but in order to establish something for the future, because if the war were to stop to-morrow, or next year; shipping will not be available for a number of years for the carrying of food and other commodities from the places in which they are produced for the feeding of Great Britain and Europe. I do not know whether the House realises that hundreds of thousands of Americans are coming to the North of Ireland and filling up the whole of England. Those troops are not only bringing their own equipment, but are importing every scrap of food, at a time when one has only to look at the papers to realise the great difficulties they have in the matter of convoying, even on their own side in the Caribbean Sea, and how important every yard of shipping space is to them. It seems to me incredible that, instead of letting our pig trade die, we cannot make some super effort to till more land and to say to these people: "We will save your shipping space up to such an amount—up to 500,000 pigs or 1,000,000 pigs, if you want them", and try to get some money out of it. If we can make that effort, we establish ourselves to a very great extent for the years immediately after the war, instead of being in the position, as I have said again and again, of having nothing whatever to bargain with after the war, for the reason that we have nothing with which to pay for the things we want. Even if we cannot supply the whole of their requirements, we can make a deal with them to supply a certain proportion, at any rate.

The Minister said yesterday, and his statement was headlined in all the papers, that it was going to be extremely difficult to get any more tillage because, notwithstanding the increase in tillage in the last few years, we were still carrying the same number of stock. I accept that from him—he has his own figures—but I want to point out that this particular business does not affect that issue at all, because the pigs are not roaming over the country. They are confined, and they are putting their manure in the place in which you want it, whereas the store cattle are roaming over the land, over the ranches which I still maintain are not entirely ploughed as they ought to be, and are not putting their manure where you want it. For that reason, I suggest that you will collect more manure to make up the diminution in the amount of root crops and to increase the amount of cereals which we require for this job, and you are quite justified in going to it to see what you can do to deal with this problem. The question of price at the moment is, I think, completely subsidiary to getting the number of pigs and giving the commission something to deal with.

Ní shilim go gcuirfeadh an tairisgint atá os ár gcomhair aon fheabhas ar an scéal, ach go ndéanfadh sé an cheist níos measa. Is fíor go bhfuil ganntann beatha muc ar fúd na tíre, ach tá fáth eile le laghdú uimhir na muc. Le cúpla mí anuas, bhí cuid mhaith shean-fhataí sa tír agus bhí fairsingeacht bhainne ag na daoine ina cheann sin, ach ba dheachair bainbh fháil le ceannacht ar aontaí agus ag margaidhthe. Deirtear liom gurabé an chúis a bhí leis sin ná go raibh go leor de na bainbh a bhí dá ndíol í Chonndae Lughbhaidh, Chonndae Muineacháin agus Chonndae Cabháin ag dul treasna na Teorann, agus má's fíor é sin, ní h-aon iongnadh é go bhfuil laghdú mór ar an méid muc atá sa tír. Is docha go bhfuil baramhal ag an Aire go bhfuil an obair seo ar bun agus ba ceart go gcuirfidh sé cosc ar imtheacht na muc go dtí na Sé Conndaethe. In aimsir mar seo, má cuirtear críoc leis an Coimisiún seo, ní bheidh tada le cur in a áit. Is furust go leor rud a thairingt anuas, ach níl sé cho-réidh rud do chur in a ionadh.

Senator The McGillycuddy thinks we should keep on supplying bacon to the English market. I saw the prices quoted in Dublin recently and they are from 10/- to £1 more than the prices offered to us for bacon by England, which disposes of the question of increasing our pig production for sale to an outside market. We cannot supply the Americans or the English at the prices they are offering. Pig production has gone down and the principal reason is lack of feeding stuffs. Senator Johnston does not seem to understand the situation in Cork County. There is a lot of land there which will grow wheat and beet, but there is a lot of land in West Cork on which it is very difficult to grow any crop, and pig feeding has been the principal industry there for years. There are still a good many pigs in Cork, but, instead of these pigs being fed and fattened there, they are being sent up the country and I am sure that some of them are going as far as Senator Johnston's county.

I meet buyers from Cavan and the West of Ireland at every fair in the South. They have been coming there for years and they are still paying a good price for bonhams and store pigs. Pigs between ten and 12 weeks old are fetching anything from £2 to £3. The number of fat pigs offered for sale at Cork Fair for some time back has been very small. We have not feeding stuffs in Cork. We cannot finish the pigs and, unfortunately, the Cork buyers have to go to the West of Ireland to pay a good price for pigs.

I do not think that the abolition of the Pigs and Bacon Commission will remedy the situation. I agree with everything that Senator Crosbie has stated, but I do not think that the abolition of the commission would be of any help. We want, if possible, to increase the number of pigs in the country, if we can feed them, but we do not want to increase the number and feed them with wheat or any other form of human food which is required for the people. Unfortunately, there was a considerable amount of that done during the past 12 months, more than people have any idea of, in some districts. If we could, by any legitimate means, increase the price of pigs and at the same time keep the price of bacon at a level which would keep it within the reach of the ordinary person, I think we should do so. If we could fix a maximum price for bacon, so as to ensure that the bacon is not going to go on the black market, and let the curers and others who want pigs buy them as best they can, I think it would have the effect of increasing pig production. Pigs were sold at all fairs in the south up to about a month ago, when the weather got very fine. They have been sold to ordinary farmers and workers, who bought them for the purpose of killing and curing them to satisfy their own needs. Very few pigs have been sold to curers for the past six months at any of the fairs in the south. Sometimes those buying for the curers sold pigs which they had purchased back again to local farmers who were prepared to go the price for them. I do not think there is anything wrong in that. If a man prefers to buy a pig for killing, and to do his own curing at home rather than to go into the shop and buy factory-cured bacon, I think he should be permitted to do so.

I think that prices should be regulated in the way I suggested, that the price of bacon should be fixed at certain rates not higher than those at present prevailing and that the price of pigs should be left open. Senator Hawkins has stated there is a possibility that some small curers would be put out of business in that way but I doubt it. I think they would be well able to hold their own and if there is a quota system, they are bound to get some anyway. I think that is the only way by which the number of pigs can be increased. It will also be necessary to increase tillage because if we are going to feed more pigs we must have some feeding stuffs and we are not going to get any Indian meal while the emergency lasts or perhaps for a considerable time after it has passed.

In discussing this matter at a recent meeting of this House, I appealed to the Minister to suspend the operations of the Pigs and Bacon Commission for the period of the emergency. I should like now to renew that appeal and to ask him seriously to consider the proposal set out in the motion. I pointed out on that occasion that the price fixed by the Pigs and Bacon Commission was not an economic price and that if they insisted on pigs being delivered at such a price to the factories, the producers would go out of production and we would have no pigs. The Minister did not seem to take much notice of that statement. I suggest to the Minister now that if he would control the price of bacon and allow a free market for the sale of pigs, that will not do any injury to the consumer. The price of bacon will be controlled. I presume the Minister will control it at a figure which would be an economic price and which would leave a margin for the bacon merchants or bacon curers. At the present time, we have practically no pigs in the country. Bacon factories are prepared to pay a good price for pigs and if the price they pay is not an economic price from their point of view, that is their look-out. The Minister should not be so concerned if the farmer gets a good price for his pigs. The Bacon Commission price at the present time is not an economic price and that is one of the reasons why we have not pigs at the present time.

I got somebody recently to send me the figures in regard to the killings in the bacon factories in Cork for the week ending July 18th. In Denny's of Cork, where the normal killings were 1,200 pigs a week, the killings for that week numbered only 36. In Lunham's the normal killings per week were 1,600 and for the week ending July 16th they were only 90. In the Farmers' Union factory the normal killings per week were 600 and for that week they were only 12. In Murphy's factory the normal killings were 400 and for that week they were only 12. People talk about maintaining the Pigs and Bacon Commission to enforce all these regulations and this grading but what grading could be done in the Cork factories during that week ending 18th July when little more than 100 pigs were dealt with, when normally they dealt with 4,000 or 5,000 in the week? This is a matter which the Minister should consider very seriously. We are not asking that the Pigs and Bacon Commission should be abolished; all the resolution asks is that its operations should be suspended for the period of the emergency.

In the course of the proceedings against the bacon curers in Cork, Mr. Lunham said that every curer in the Twenty-Six Counties had given over the fixed price at certain periods. He was asked to supply the names of the particular curers, and he refused, quite naturally. If it is a fact that every bacon curer in the country was giving more than the controlled price, why should they not be allowed to do so? If they were not charging a higher price to the consumer for the bacon, I cannot see that their action constituted any serious crime. The Minister does not agree with me. He possibly might say that they were poaching; that they were going into other districts into which they had no right to go. I cannot see any grounds for that argument. It costs a good deal at the present moment to produce pigs, and the attitude of the Pigs and Bacon Commission is taking money out of the farmers' pockets and putting them in such a position that they are going out of pig production altogether; I know hundreds of cases in which they have sold their sows. If that is to continue, there will be very little use for the Pigs and Bacon Commission for a considerable time.

On the last occasion on which we were discussing this matter, I mentioned the price at which I sold a pig in the Dublin market on a particular day; if I had sent that pig to the factory I would have got £9 less. A fortnight ago I sold some pigs in Dublin, and got over 140/- per cwt. deadweight for them, which amounted to about £9 15s. per pig. Last Wednesday, in the Dublin market I had some pigs of practically the same weight, and the price was £6 10s. That is a terrible difference. There is no regulated price at the fairs or in the market. The pigs are sold at the highest price that can be obtained, and it is only at the factory that the price is controlled. If the bacon curers close down, we will be left to the mercy of the pork butchers and a few others, and it is clear that factories with big overhead expenses cannot carry on at the present rate of killings. If they pay higher prices they will be prosecuted, and, perhaps, under the Bill we have just passed, put into jail.

Previous speakers have said that a good deal of our present problem with regard to the reduction in pig production is due to the scarcity of feeding stuffs. I agree that that may have a certain amount to do with it, but price is a bigger factor than anything else. Senator McGee, speaking here some time ago, thanked the Government for taking potatoes from the Cooley farmers for the alcohol factory at a price of £3 per ton, in addition to paying some portion of the expenses; I think the whole lot was about £4 per ton for old potatoes. Would it not be a much wiser and better policy if the Department of Agriculture sent those potatoes to the people who are engaged in pig production? We were recently informed by the Department that four tons of potatoes are equal in feeding value to a ton of maize; with maize at £7 a ton, potatoes would then be worth about £2 a ton. Any big factory would give £25 a ton for maize at the moment, and, at that proportion, potatoes should be worth about £6 or £7 a ton. Nobody need tell the farmers of this country the value of potatoes as a food for pigs. Of course, there ought to be a balanced ration, but for centuries potatoes have been the principal portion of the ration for fattening pigs here. We have always been able to claim that we produce the best bacon, and I hope we will continue to do so, but I am afraid the attitude of the Pigs and Bacon Commission will result in our having none to export.

I would suggest to the Minister that, by propaganda, he should try to induce the people to go in for making potato ensilage. I make some of it myself, and it is a simple process enough if you have the necessary appliances. In Germany, they have those cooking and cleaning engines going around, and they can be hired in the same way as the farmers here might hire a threshing engine. Without the necessary appliances, the making of potato ensilage is a laborious job which the farmers will not undertake. Instead of sending potatoes to the alcohol factories it would be of importance to arrange that anybody who wanted to make a quantity of potato ensilage could hire a set to do the work, just as farmers can hire a threshing mill. I appeal to the Minister, seeing that the number of pigs is limited, to abolish the operations of the Pigs and Bacon Commission, to let there be free trade for live pigs, and to control the price of bacon. That would meet the situation. Business would be much better by not continuing the operations of the Pigs and Bacon Commission. They have got the feelings of most of the people concerned against them and there is going to be no improvement until the emergency is over.

A number of points were raised in the debate, but I feel that Senators are not too anxious for a very long reply so I will just run through the points that were raised. Senator Crosbie, when introducing the motion, and other Senators, seemed anxious more or less to have a discussion on some points but I do not think they made very much of a case for the abolition of the commission. As a matter of fact Senators should realise that in order to abolish the commission we would have to repeal all the legislation that was passed. It is all dependent on that to carry out the various regulations.

Senator Crosbie advocated the suspension of the commission, not its abolition.

The same thing would apply. It cannot be suspended unless the Act is suspended.

Could the Minister not make an Order under the Emergency Powers?

Yes, but no part of the Act could remain. Everything in it is dependent on the commission. Such things as quotas to factories would also have to go. I was going to deal with the point that Senator Crosbie made about the factories in Cork. In my opinion the only way that these factories can get an equitable distribution of the pigs available is through the commission. The fact is that their request is not that the Pigs and Bacon Commission should be suspended, but that it should go further into the business and take over all pigs to see that they were equitably distributed. That matter is under consideration. We had figures quoted by Senators regarding the operation of individual factories. Senator Counihan corroborated some figures given by Senator Crosbie with regard to Cork. It would appear that some of the big factories that were dealing with 1,200 or 1,600 pigs a week are now dealing with only 100. The figures should not be as low as that. If every factory got a fair share, they should be getting one-third of the normal quota. The normal output of pigs pre-war and in 1940 was about 1,000,000 a year to the factories. The present weekly supply to the factories is about 6,000. It is not much under one-third. If the Cork factory got 1,500 weekly previously, they should now be getting 500. Whatever pigs are there should be equitably distributed amongst these factories in order to keep the employees working. I have agreed, at the request of some curers, to ask the Pigs and Bacon Commission if they are prepared to undertake the task of the nominal purchase of pigs, and then distribute them equally between the factories. There are objections to that. Those who listened to Senator Johnston's speech will know the objections. They are obvious. As Senator Johnston stated, if there were more pigs presented than the equitable fraction of the total, say to a factory in Monaghan, he would seriously object to the transfer of these pigs to Cork. There are also transport objections. It may not be necessary, actually, in working the scheme put up, to transfer pigs from Monaghan to Cork. It may be necessary to transfer pigs from Monaghan to Dundalk, and perhaps pigs from this side of Dundalk to Dublin, and pigs in the south to Roscrea, or from Roscrea to Cork. There may be some attempt at zoning supplies to factories.

I cannot say further now because the matter is being considered by the Pigs and Bacon Commission. If they can find a solution on the lines suggested by the factories we can, at least, do something then to meet the wishes of the factories. The motion suggests that in view of the reduction of the pig population the Seanad should ask that the operations of the Pigs and Bacon Commission be suspended. What is the diminution in the number of pigs due to? Many Senators expressed the opinion that it was entirely due to the shortage of feeding stuffs, others that it was due to the prices offered for fat pigs. I am inclined to think that it is almost entirely due to the scarcity of feeding stuffs. I admit that if a very much bigger price was offered for pigs, we might get more pigs, but as a result we might have greater evils. I do not see how these pigs could have been fed. Every bit of feeding stuff has been used up. No trader, no miller, and I believe very few farmers have feeding stuffs. If there had been more pigs to be fed it is fairly obvious that they would have been fed on cereal food that was required for humans. More pigs would mean less food for human beings. That would be a very much bigger evil than the evil we have to face of having a scarcity of bacon. Senator Crosbie says that we ought to secure more feeding stuffs for pigs. That is certainly a good suggestion. As far as we could we have tried to secure more cereals, and we have, to a certain extent, by compulsion, induced owners to till at least 25 per cent. of their land. We have gone in that direction, and have made appeals in every way possible, by advertisement, by Ministers and officials of my Department, and in every way urged farmers to do more than the quota required. We have got very good results. Of course we have not got sufficient cereals growing to supply the human population with all the bread necessary and, at the same time, maintain all the animals we had when the war commenced.

I should like Senators to keep in mind a few points regarding the cause of the decline in the number of pigs. To realise it Senators must go back and study the trend of prices of fat pigs since the war commenced, and also the number of pigs offered for sale during that period. They will be inclined then to come to the conclusion that the big factor was the supply of feeding stuffs. From the beginning of 1940, down to February, 1942, or for over two years, there were frequent increases in the price of fat pigs. There was never any decrease. There were about seven changes in prices, all upwards during that period. At the same time, all through that two years, the number of sows sent to service every month was less than the corresponding numbers in previous years. It is obvious that the farmer who had his sow and was making up his mind whether or not he should go on breeding pigs was not influenced by the price of fat pigs. Fat pigs were going up all the time in price and the number of sows going to service was getting smaller. It is only a coincidence, but it is very strange, that the first time the commission lowered the price of fat pigs was in February and that the first time we had an increase in sow services was the following month— March. I do not want Senators to take me as arguing that it took a decline in the price of fat pigs to get farmers to send sows to service but it just happened.

It is argued by many people that that fall in the price of fat pigs in February had a depressing effect. It had not. More sows were sent to service then, and, since then, more sows have been sent every month. There has been a turn of the tide. In the months of March, April and May—I have not yet the figures for June—the number of sows sent to service has been greater than during the corresponding months of the previous year. That is a turn of the tide after two years, so that there is some hope that the number of pigs will increase. If Senators ask me why farmers took that action in March, I answer by saying that they, probably, saw on their own farms and around them that there was an increase in tillage and the prospect of more feeding in the winter months. In the second place, they, probably, recognised that there was a fall in the number of pigs and that it was a good time to go back into production. They have done so. I think that the man with the sow is influenced by two things—the price of small pigs and whether he can feed the sow or not. If he can feed the sow, he is inclined to keep her. The fact that we had a big decline in the number of pigs in the two years of which I speak was entirely due to the want of feeding. Farmers thought that they could not go on rearing the sow and rearing the small pigs. The price of small pigs was extremely good for the past two years to any man who was selling the small pigs and not fattening them.

I come now to the man who bought small pigs to fatten them. He paid a good price. He would not have done so if he were losing on the fattening. If I were in the place of a farmer with a certain amount of feeding and if I thought that I would make very little by feeding from six to 12 pigs but that I would have the manure, I might feed them knowing that I would not have very much profit. That was, probably, the position of those who were paying high prices for small pigs and who had a small amount of feeding on hands. However, we discussed that point here before.

Senators will have to admit, at least, that the present position is not entirely due to price. The continuous rise in prices had not the effect of increasing pig production. As soon as prices went down, pig production increased. I should be prepared to argue that, even at present, fat pigs are paying, whatever certain Senators may think. I know very well that if I had to go to a shop and buy meal to feed the pigs they would not pay, but I would not get more than 1 cwt. or 2 cwts. of meal. I tried and I know. One cwt. or 2 cwts. of meal is all right to help out with whatever waste potatoes are available even if you pay £1 or 22/- a cwt. for the meal. But there is no use in talking about the cost of feeding pigs on purchased meals, because you cannot get them. What you must take into account are surplus potatoes.

The sort of ration that the farmer is giving to his pig to make a cwt. of pork is: 2 cwts. of oats, 8 or 10 cwts. of potatoes, and a 1/2 cwt. of meat-meal, if he has not skim-milk. It is a ration of that kind we should have in mind when we consider whether the present price of pigs is remunerative or not. Taking a ration of that kind, I think the present price of pigs is good. If any Senator cares to work the matter out, he will find that he can allow himself 2/- a stone for his oats, 4/- or 5/- a cwt. for his potatoes—small and big —which is very good, and 24/- a cwt. for the meat-meal which he buys. Feeding that ration to the pigs, he will have a profit—though not a big profit —as well as having the manure which has been so highly rated in this debate. In these circumstances, I do not think that any Senators can hold that pig-rearing is not remunerative at present prices.

It is another question whether prices should be increased or not. Sometimes, because of a certain psychology amongst farmers, it is advisable, though the price be a paying one, to raise it as an indication that pigs will be better and that it is a good time to go back into them. From that point of view, I am quite willing to ask the Pigs and Bacon Commission to reconsider the present prices. But I am more inclined to ask the commission to reconsider the present gradings, because I think that there is a good deal in what Senators have said with regard to the grading of pigs. We must remember what we had in mind when passing the first Pigs and Bacon Act. We had in mind that we had a surplus for export, and some of us may have had the hope of increasing that surplus and making a greater profit than we were making at the time on the foreign market. We saw, however, that we were up against a very keen competitor on the foreign market. We were told—with a great deal of truth —that that competitor had got her position on the British market by putting there the bacon the British consumer wanted—uniform size, uniform weight, and uniform in the amount of fat and lean.

When a retail merchant in England went to a wholesaler and asked for a side of Danish bacon, he knew exactly what he would get. If he asked for a side of Irish bacon, he would get good bacon, undoubtedly. We held here— and I think rightly—that it was the best bacon to be got, but the retailer was not sure whether he would get a side or 56 lbs. or 66 lbs. or whether it would have a great deal of fat or not so much fat. We were told that we could not compete very much longer on the English market unless we put a uniform side on the English market, as the Danes have done before us. We set out in that legislation to try to get some uniformity. We had been breeding a very good type of pig here for some years, but that was not enough; we had to induce the farmer to market his pig at a proper weight and we had to offer him a price to feed his pig properly, so that there would be the correct proportion of lean and fat on the side. All these regulations, which were made possible under the Pigs and Bacon Act, 1933, were designed to accomplish that.

I mention that in case Senators may forget and ask the object of all this legislation. It may seem very silly at the moment, but I think Senators desire that we should get back on the foreign market as soon as the war is over and it would not be desirable to drop all our regulations now. If we did that, and dropped the grading of bacon, we would leave the farmer to learn during the next year or two that he will get the very same price for a 20 stone pig per cwt. as he would get for a 12 stone pig per cwt. Naturally, he would come to the conclusion that he would make very much more on the 20 stone one than on the 12 stone one, and when the war is over it would take some years to convince him that he was doing the wrong thing by keeping to the 20 stone pig and get him back on to the 12 stone one. Therefore, I think we must keep the regulations, to some extent. I do not say that there need be as many, or that they need be as severe, as they were pre-war. In present circumstances, we should keep the grading, but perhaps the prices could be brought very much closer than if we were competing on the foreign market. Further, if by any chance a farmer's pig goes from grade I to grade II he should not suffer as a consequence. These are things that should be considered, and I am quite prepared to ask the commission to consider these matters and see if they could not be brought into line with present conditions.

With regard to manure, Senator Crosbie quoted from a very scientific article that when artificial manures— phosphates, I suppose—were £2 per ton, the manure from one pig the whole year round was worth about £4. If a person is fattening pigs and has three batches of them, one batch every four months, each pig in his four months would be worth 30/- or, at the present price of manure, about £2. There is no doubt that, when we were importing our foodstuffs, pigs were very valuable for the making of manure, but, under present circumstances, where the farmer is feeding his own grain and potatoes to animals, I do not think it makes very much difference, so far as manure is concerned, whether he feeds this grain and potatoes to pigs or cattle or any other animals.

There may be something in the point mentioned by Senator The McGillycuddy, to have the manure from a house-fed animal, as you can distribute where and how you wish, rather than from a grass-fed animal. Assuming that we have a certain amount of grain, roots, and so on, for winter feeding, I do not think it makes any difference whether that is fed to pigs or bullocks. It does make a difference whether it is fed to a mature animal or a young animal, but that applies to cattle as well as to pigs.

Senator Parkinson spoke of the development of other sources of manure. I will not deal with that now, as I dealt with it fully yesterday. Every source of native manure has been very fully examined by my Department and by other Departments, such as the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Supplies, and the question also has been put to the Research Bureau. We have not got very far yet. Senator Parkinson mentioned in particular calcium cyanamide. I read a report on that some time ago. My recollection is that the machinery necessary to manufacture that fertiliser is just as elaborate—if not more so— and just as expensive and, under our circumstances, just as inaccessible, as the plant necessary for the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia from the air. We have been told definitely that the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia from the air is impossible while this war lasts, as we cannot get the equipment.

In dealing with pig production, we have three main points to consider. In the first place, we have the present position, how best to deal with the pigs that we have, to get the best possible price for the farmers and give the consumers the best possible value in bacon, while at the same time maintaining whatever employment is possible in the bacon factories. I think this point can be dealt with best by the equitable distribution of pigs between all the bacon factories. The factories feel they have a grievance if they do not get a fair share and they are inclined to say that they cannot keep persons employed otherwise. As I have said already, I am having that point examined and expect to make an announcement about it some time next week. If possible we will see that pigs are equitably distributed and we will make an appeal to the factories to do the best they can with regard to continuing employment.

The second point to be considered in this whole question is the possibility of increasing the supply of pigs to an extent sufficient to provide for our own needs in bacon. For some time past, I have been very hesitant to advocate greater pig production, or to induce it by requesting the Pigs and Bacon Commission to reconsider the prices. I feel that the commission will reconsider the prices whenever I make such a request to them. I was first of all waiting to learn the acreage under grain. We have got that now, and it has been published, so Senators will know what it is. I may say that it is very satisfactory. We get rather disquieting reports—not official reports—which come from various parts of the country, saying the oats crop is not so good, or the potato crop or barley crop is not so good. I must say that the reports regarding the wheat crop are much better, on the whole, than the reports with regard to the others. If we get less oats and barley than last year, even with the increased acreage, there is no possibility of feeding more pigs. If we get less potatoes, it also would militate against keeping more pigs. I am very hesitant about it at present. If I felt that the increased acreage, even though the yield may be a little less, would mean more oats, barley and potatoes in the country, I would then request the Pigs and Bacon Commission to reconsider the price. I think that at that stage, if I was fairly sure of that, I would request the Pigs and Bacon Commission to reconsider the prices, and even go so far as to say to them that I think the prospect of pig feeding will be a bit better this coming year than it was last year. We may, perhaps, be in a position within a week or two to get more reliable reports as to the yields of these crops, and, if so, we will be able to have this matter reconsidered.

Did the Minister make the point that the more the price went up the fewer pigs there were?

No. I stressed the fact that I was not making that point. I said that it was merely a coincidence and certainly did not follow. Now, the third point is the long-term policy. I need not deal with that, because we went into it very fully yesterday. In any case, as I pointed out, we are setting up a committee to deal with the question of post-war planning in general, and, naturally, one of the questions that that committee will deal with is the question of pig production after the war. Senator Johnston mentioned a point which has often been mentioned before, about pigs being offered to the factory and then having to be brought back, and then when they are offered again, two or three weeks later, they are of a higher grade or weight and are worth less money. These are two points that I think should be dealt with, and, as a matter of fact, the Pigs and Bacon Commission have the matter under consideration at the moment. I may say that that matter of pigs not being taken by the factories has not been felt by any producer for some time back, and I hope that it will not be felt again, because I think that whatever plan we adopt we should certainly cover that point, and when a farmer brings a pig to a factory, the factory should take it from him, no matter what the factory may do with the pig afterwards. The point about a pig being brought back and, as a result, going into a higher grade, is also being considered.

In that connection, Senator Johnston gave an instance of pigs being taken in Monaghan on a particular day and then being sent to Cavan, and on the next day pigs were taken in Castleblayney and sent to Monaghan. In trying to get an equitable distribution of pigs among the various factories, that may happen, and it is a very difficult thing to deal with because, if you are coming towards the end of the month, for instance, and Cavan still wants some pigs, while Monaghan has got what they are entitled to for the month, it is natural that some pigs should be shipped from Monaghan to Cavan, but it is then assumed that Cavan had got their full complement and there are still pigs there at the end of the month. Well, if all the factories have got their complement, then the pigs should be sent to the nearest factory. If this system of getting an equitable share of the available pigs for the different factories comes into operation, as I think it probably will, there will undoubtedly be some shifting around, because it cannot be avoided, but I quite admit that there should be as little shifting as possible and that the journeys should be as short as possible.

Another question that is raised is why we do not fix a minimum price for pigs and let the factories pay what they like for them, and also fix an ex-factory price for bacon, over which the bacon manufacturer cannot go. Now, that was one of the big issues when the Pigs and Bacon Act was first being passed through both Houses of the Oireachtas. I think that if Senators could find the time to go back through the debates of that time, they would find that there was more discussion on that particular point than on any other point. In addition, it was discussed very fully by a Select Committee of the Dáil, and I think it was agreed, generally, in both Houses, in the end, that the fixed price was more advisable than the minimum price. It would take too long to go into all the points that were raised then, and, if I were to do so, it might deprive Senators of their week-end. However, I shall mention a few of the points. Those who argued for the minimum price, of course, had the obvious arguments that are used here, to the effect that if the factory is prepared to pay more, why not let the farmer have it? That is the big argument so far as that side of it is concerned, and I think it is a sufficient argument, without trying to make any other, because I do not think any other argument could be made. Against that, however, was argued: you are now going to regulate the whole business, and if you regulate at all, then it is unfair to tie the hands of the factories in some respects and to leave them free in other respects. Now, the factories would be tied in some respects, but they would not be tied in the one instance of competing, one against another, by paying more for pigs, and the obvious result of that—it was quite obvious—was that certain factories would be driven to the wall, and it would eventually come to a question of the survival of the fittest. How many of them would be affected in that way, it is hard to say. I imagine that the very small factories would be able to carry on. These small factories that deal with only 100 pigs or so in the week get these pigs locally from the farmers, and are very much in touch with the local pig producers, and they would probably do all right. I think it is the medium factories, without capital or with very little capital, that would fail, whereas the big factories, with unlimited capital, undoubtedly would succeed.

The second point was that all this legislation was brought in principally to deal with the very serious grievance that farmers had—a grievance amounting to dissatisfaction, and which was the very point mentioned by Senator Johnston in this debate to-day—that a farmer who sold his pig in a certain fair for 60/- live-weight, read in the paper when he went home that on the same day, in another fair only a few miles away, another farmer got 70/-, and naturally he could not understand—and he certainly would not agree—why he did not also get 70/- for his pig. The result was that that farmer had a very big sense of grievance and was very dissatisfied. In fact, it was held by members of both Houses at the time—and with a certain amount of conviction—that that was one of the big causes of the decline in pig production—that feeling of dissatisfaction: that you had to take what you got and that, if you were lucky enough to be in another fair on the same day, you would have done much better. Now, you would have that if you allowed bacon curers to pay a minimum price. The factories would pay that price in one place, where they had to pay it, and might not pay it in another, and the result would lead to great dissatisfaction, and whatever we might say about having this minimum price and allowing the curers to compete more, and trying to maintain an ex-factory price, I agree with Senator Hawkins that that ex-factory price for bacon could not be maintained, however much we might wish to do it.

I was asked also, would it not be possible for the Pigs and Bacon Commission to fix prices for longer periods in advance. Of course, that is a very big question. Since they came into operation, seven or eight years ago, there have been very few reductions in price. Nearly all the time, there have been increases, and there have been very few reductions in price, but I feel that they will have to retain that power, even though they do not exercise it very often, and especially the power to deal with grading, because various things might crop up, as we have experienced in the past, and also, of course, it would be against the spirit of the legislation on which the Pigs and Bacon Act was built: the idea of how to regulate the trade in future. All these things are bound up very much, one with the other.

I must say that I cannot agree with Senator The McGillycuddy that wheat offals are necessary for the proper fattening of pigs. I think it should be possible to get a ration for the feeding of pigs without wheat offals, especially wheat for the smaller pigs.

It is what the Irish farmer has been used to, and he is terribly conservative.

Even though we have a very good wheat acreage this year— most reports go to show that the wheat yield will be very good—I do not think there is any hope that we will have wheat offals in the coming year. If I understood Senator The McGillycuddy properly, I think he made the point that we should be in a position to produce bacon on a large scale when the war is over, because the people of Europe will need bacon and other foodstuffs. I do not see how we can do that except on our own feeding stuffs, because if we had to import maize or other feeding stuffs at that stage to feed pigs it would be easier for us, or for any other country in Europe, to bring in a boat-load of bacon than four or five boat-loads of maize. It comes back to the point that, unless we can produce our own feeding stuffs, we cannot do anything in regard to increasing bacon supplies. To get some picture of increasing our own feeding stuffs, I may mention that we have, after a great deal of persuasion, appeals and so on got our barley acreage up from 100,000 acres to 160,000 acres. That represents an increase of 60,000 acres in the last three or four years. Even if we were to jump by another 100,000 acres, which would be phenomenal and more than we could expect, that would represent only 250,000 pigs. The production of our own feeding stuffs is a very big matter.

Senator Counihan raised a point about sending potatoes to the alcohol factories, and thought we would have been better advised to send them for the feeding of pigs. Personally, I would rather see them fed to pigs, but I felt, and I think probably a good many others felt, that any farmer who had pigs and wanted potatoes to feed to them could have got them himself. If any farmer had written to say that he wanted some of the potatoes that were being sent to the alcohol factories, I am quite sure we would have put him in touch with farmers who had offered us potatoes for the alcohol factories. We could have got the farmers who had the potatoes for sale to send them on to the farmers who had the pigs. It could have been quite easily arranged. Evidently that was not necessary, and farmers were able to get their own supplies. On the point about the ensilage of potatoes, Senator Counihan thinks that we should have a machine to go around. I am quite with Senator Counihan on that. I have already mentioned in the Dáil that if these machines can be got by any group of farmers—co-operative societies, groups or even individuals-anxious to bring the machines around to the farmers' houses for cooking the potatoes for ensilage, I will be very willing to evolve some sort of a credit system for the purchase of such machines. I think that would be my function in the matter and not to organise societies. The farmers themselves can do that, but at least they could feel that the financial part of it would not be a deterrent if they could form societies and get the machinery necessary. I think that is all I have to say.

I intervene on behalf of the housekeepers in the country, first of all, to thank Senator Crosbie for initiating a very valuable discussion. He did it in a most effective speech and elicited some of the most interesting and valuable speeches that I have heard in this House. It seems to me that the House is at its best when discussing these subjects. I was tremendously impressed by the speech of Senator Parkinson. I also desire to take this opportunity, on behalf of the housekeepers, of thanking the Minister for the promise he has made to interest the Pigs and Bacon Commission in the question of providing for our own home needs in bacon. There is nothing that is of more interest to women with a small house to budget for than a good supply of bacon. It is easily cooked in places where they have not good cooking facilities, and that is of great importance at this time when there is a shortage of fuel. I want to stress one point which perhaps the Minister and the Pigs and Bacon Commission might be inclined to overlook, and that is to encourage the production of fat bacon. The people in the country want fat bacon. It provides a good splutter on the pan, and combines very well with cabbage. There used to be a demand for lean bacon for the fastidious English market, but that need not be such a potent factor in our planning now. We need not be afraid to allow our pigs to grow fat. The thing is to have them as fat as you please, and plenty of them, so that we may all get enough to eat.

I think that the discussion that has taken place on this motion has been a useful one. As Senator McEllin and Senator The McGillycuddy have stated, the motion is a token one to this extent that I do not intend to push it to a division. I have been challenged that I have not been sincere in desiring to suspend the activities of the Pigs and Bacon Commission. I will deal with that at the end. The Minister stated that he would not be empowered, without legislation, to suspend the activities of that commission. For what it is worth I offer to him a repeal Act that I drafted last night—a measure to repeal all the Pigs and Bacon Acts passed from 1935 to 1940. I am quite willing to place it at his disposal at any time he should require it. I agree with Senator McEllin that the maximum price for bacon should always be fixed on the basis of what the most efficient bacon factory in the country can produce bacon at. The Senator and myself are at one on that question as well as on the question of the survival of the fittest. It seems strange to me, however, that the Senator should agree with me on that point, because that principle has not been applied by this Government to other matters. The milling trade is an example where the price of flour has always been fixed on what the most inefficient mill could produce the flour at. I rather welcome it as a sign of a modern tendency perhaps in Government policy that Senator McEllin and I are in agreement on the question of fixing the maximum price on the price of the most efficient factories.

Senator Johnson was in some doubt as to what the situation was in Cork and was puzzled about the pig situation there. Senator Corkery, I think, explained the Cork position to Senator Johnston very clearly and definitely, and I have no doubt that Senator Corkery is right when he states that some of our pigs found their way as far afield as Monaghan. Senator Hawkins seems to be under a delusion as regards the curers passing on the increase. So far, the facts as disclosed in the recent prosecutions in Cork tend to show that the curers made no effort to pass on the increase, or, if you like to call it, the black market price that they paid for the pigs, to the consumer in any way. That, I think, was admitted.

The Senator will admit that that may not continue.

I would not admit it or deny it. I only can state that so far there has been no evidence produced that there would be a tendency that way. It is, however, possible. I am glad to hear that the Minister intends to ask the commission to go into the question of revising gradings of pigs and, if this motion was productive of nothing else except that undertaking by the Minister, it would, I think, have served a very useful purpose. As regards the operation of a minimum price for pigs and a maximum price for bacon, to which Senator Hawkins and the Minister both objected, surely the quota system would protect the smaller or the more medium factory from being completely swamped by the bigger and wealthier factories.

Senator Parkinson dealt very fully with the question of artificial manures and I was disappointed that the Minister, when replying, did not deal with the question of superphosphate and potash. Perhaps on some other occasion the Minister will take an opportunity of dealing with that.

I dealt very fully with that on the Estimate.

I agree with the Minister, as I said before, that it is principally a question of feeding-stuffs. But we cannot altogether ignore the machinations of the commission and the question of price. I have been challenged about the commission from all sides. Let us see exactly what the situation is and what has happened. A situation was allowed to arise by the commission which has resulted, in tremendous waste of time, energy and money. The position was that if the curers did not fill their quotas they were liable to penalties and to be fined. When they paid more than the price fixed by the commission for pigs, they were prosecuted, although it is admitted on all sides that on that occasion they made no endeavour to increase the price of bacon, or in any way to pass on the increased price which they paid for the pigs either to the retailers or the consumers. In my opinion the commission has failed in not foreseeing the possibility of that situation arising and the position as it exists at present, and as long as the status quo is allowed to remain, may best be described as a lunatic position and one which, if it were not for the serious repercussions on our national economy, would be laughable. To my mind the commission has proved, not that it is not efficient—I do not for one moment make that case—but that it is not sufficiently elastic to deal with the rapidly changing conditions. It is the duty of the commission to serve the industry and to serve the people, not to regiment them. I still maintain that the commission's activities should be suspended for the duration of the emergency, or at any rate as long as the Cork factories are shut.

I should like to ask a question about a matter which has not been dealt with, and that is a drive for the collection of bones for the production of bone meal similar to that in England. Is that possible in this country, or how does that stand?

We are turning out bone and blood manure.

I find it most effective.

I will take that point into consideration to see if it will be possible. Of course we have not such populous centres here and it may not be possible.

I do not think people, really know about it. It is the same with waste paper. There are no agents in the towns.

I will take a note of it. When speaking, I meant to give Senators the figures of the number of pigs in the country in June of this year, so that they may have an idea of how we stand. We had 50,000 sows. I do not know whether that is the lowest number on record, but it is the lowest for many years. In the last normal year, namely, 1940, we had 103,000 sows. In fact, 103,000 would be above the normal; probably 100,000 would be about the normal. We had 464,000 other pigs, as against 946,000 in 1940. Therefore, we had about half. I mentioned already that the number of sows is increasing slightly, so that the outlook is not entirely so bad as it would appear at the moment. I think the position will improve.

Is the motion being withdrawn?

No, I am not withdrawing the motion, but I will not put it to a division.

Motion put and negatived, Senator Crosbie dissenting.

The Seanad adjourned at 3.30 p.m. until 3 p.m., September 23rd.