I would not raise this matter but for the flippant manner in which the Minister for Agriculture treated this question which so gravely affects the barley growers. In reply Deputy Aird a few weeks ago, the Minister recommended that the farmers should keep a greater proportion of their barley than has been the practice and utilise it for feeding pigs. It is regrettable that the Minister did not spend a little bit more time on the farm, for I am sure if in his young days when the harvest was threshed, and his father was considering the selling of it to pay his rates and annuities, if the future Minister suggested then that he should use it for the feeding of his pigs, the answer would be more forcible than polite.
QUESTION ON THE ADJOURNMENT. - EMBARGO ON IMPORTATION OF FOREIGN BARLEY AND MALT.
He never sowed oats in his life.
The Minister, in a reply to Deputy Davin, asked did the Deputy want him to make representations to Messrs. Guinness that they should take more barley than they required. Deputy Aird asked the Minister this question to-day: "Whether he will take steps to place an embargo on the importation of all foreign barley and malt entering the Saorstát, until such time as the barley produced by barley growers in the Saorstát has been disposed of." I do not think any member of this House who is aware of the position of the tillage farmers in this country would consider the reply given by the Minister as being in any way satisfactory. It was simply in the negative. When we look into the position as regards the importation of foreign barley we find a very grave state of affairs. In the year 1926 there was imported 116,044 cwts. of foreign barley at an average cost of 8/- per cwt., and in the same year we exported 388,000 cwts. of barley at an average price of 6/- per cwt. In the year 1927 there were imported 214,000 cwts. of barley at an average of 10/3 per cwt., and we exported 264,000 cwts. at the price of 10/- per cwt. We imported last year 150,000 cwts. of malt at a cost of £147,000. That is very grave matter not alone for the barley growers, but for the unemployed who have been dismissed from the malting houses. Up to the 30th June Messrs. Guinness imported 163,000 cwts. of barley at a cost of £83,000. More sinister still, in the month of June we imported 151,798 cwts. Most of the imported barley this year was brought in in the month of June. I do not know was it by collusion or not, but in the reports given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce for July and August, there is no reference to imports or exports of barley. We had imported in the month of June 66,000 cwts. of foreign malt at a cost of £65,000, so for the three months preceding our harvest we had imported £157,000 worth of foreign malt and barley. That was a nice preparation for the harvest of the farmers. Then the Minister tells us he can do nothing. No, he can do nothing, but the sheriff and the bums will in due course collect the annuities.
What do you want me to do?
I want you to do what Deputy Aird suggested, not to allow to be dumped in this country before the farmers' harvest barley which the farmers of this country are able to produce. The farmers could very easily have a market for their barley if the Executive Council recognised that the upkeep of the country is mainly dependent on the farmers, and prohibit the import of foreign malt and barley and leave the home market open to them. I think it is a scandalous state of affairs that the farmers in my constituency and in other constituencies are unable to find a market for their barley except at a price that is ruinous, while the foreign barley is being imported.
Reduce the duty.
That has nothing to do with it. I say that what should be done is to increase the duty on liquor brewed and distilled from foreign barley and reduce the duty on the home product. Now the Dáil is the first institution in the State. If one of our American friends visits us here and he suffers from thirst and we take him to the bar we can only give him the produce of foreign barley, though our own brewers produce good stuff out of home-grown barley. You could not give them Beamish's stout. It is undoubtedly a very serious matter that the farmers cannot find a market for their malt and barley. Every day we are told we should till more land. I am an advocate of tillage, for it means employment as well as being otherwise desirable.
Do you till yourself?
Yes, much more than you do.
Thirty-five per cent., which is more than you do.
The Deputy when referring to the Minister should speak in the third person.
I cannot help it when I am interrupted. £157,000 worth of foreign barley and malt was imported by Messrs. Guinness in order to forestall the home market. I suppose we will be told we cannot do without Messrs. Guinness. But it is time that this matter was definitely and seriously considered by the Minister for Agriculture, who, after all, is responsible to the farming community whether he likes it or not. But whether he likes it or not, I consider it is his duty to do something in this matter. You have the position that there is £127,000 worth of foreign malt and barley purchased from abroad and dumped into this country in one month and we cannot market our own produce.
I think it is necessary that the Minister should make a definite statement in view of the general feeling in the country that the Government has some responsibility for the present situation. It must be realised that the farmers in at least six or seven counties are placed in a very serious position at the present moment. In these six or seven counties barley is the staple crop, and from what we can ascertain there does not seem any prospect whatever that these farmers can sell their barley at any price. There is a feeling fairly general that the Government could impose a duty on barley without any disadvantage to the State. There is also the feeling, and the more general feeling, that whatever may be the position as regards barley there could be no excuse for the State allowing foreign malt to be imported; that whatever excuse the users of malt may have to put up for importing foreign barley for their purpose, there certainly can be no excuse for the importation of foreign malt into a country that is studded with malt houses and where labour is cheap; they, at least, should have the right to malt the barley that is required in the liquor industry. I hope the Minister will make a definite statement on that question as to the difficulties, if there are any difficulties. If it will not mean any interference or reduction in the brewing or distilling industry, there seems to be a strong case for a duty on barley. Whatever the reason may be, even if the Minister is able to give reasons to show that the duty on barley would have the effect of interfering to a dangerous extent with the liquor manufacturing industry, he will at all events find it difficult to show that the duty on malt will have such an effect. In view of the general feeling throughout the country I hope the Minister will make a definite statement on the matter.
The whole situation arises out of the importation of foreign malt. If it were possible to stop that, or to reduce it to a lesser bulk, a great deal of the difficulty would be overcome. That is the opinion of the barley growers of the country. If at any time the Minister could see his way even to have a time limit so as to have the home product bought up previous to the importation, we would be quite satisfied—not to allow the imports in until the farmers have had an opportunity of selling their own barley. Unless there is something done in that direction I am afraid that things will not be bright nor the prospects before the farmers in any way good. The importation of malt must certainly be stopped if the farmers are to get an opportunity of going ahead.
It is quite evident that some form of dislocation has taken place in the barley-growing industry. It is hardly to be expected, this evening at least, that any form of protection or prohibition is to be put up. But I am quite sure that it is possible to devise some temporary remedy. I take it that barley is a cash crop, and as far as I understand the difficulty of storage is one that the farmers are faced with. They may not have complete storage, but I believe that inside this country there is a market for barley at a price. Cash can be got for barley. The difficulty is to find that market, and I suppose that the market is found to-day to a very limited extent. It is found by means of certain distributors, so that the difference between the prices the producer gets and the prices the consumer pays is too much. I am sure the Minister is in a position to devise some means of connecting the consumer of barley with the producer.
I am not going to detain the House very long. I only just want to say, that, in my opinion, if the Minister does agree to do what he is asked to do here—that is, to put a tariff on barley he would be doing a thing he should not do and this House would be doing a thing it should not do if it voted for a tariff. I say that for this reason—that in my opinion, and I claim to have some experience of farming and of tillage farming at that, that the days of growing corn for sale as a cash crop are past. You will be going against the people's own interest by encouraging them to grow barley as a cash crop. I do all I can to encourage tilling farming, and I claim to be the biggest tillage farmer in this House. I want to encourage farmers to use on their own lands all the corn they grow there —to feed it to their live stock instead of trying to turn it into a cash crop. If the people in this country who can afford to feed their corn crops to their live stock and who are in a position to do so. and who are also in a position to store their own corn instead of rushing it to the market, then they will be doing a service to the smaller farmers who are not so well circumstanced, and these letter will be in a position to get better prices for the corn they have to sell.
Deputy Jordan has undoubtedly struck the right note. The Midland counties have been encouraged, year by year, to keep on to a totally unsound system of farming. That is what has been happening. There is a prospect held out before them that by some sort of State action the prices of corn can be kept up to a paying level. That is the only serious part of speeches like those of Deputy Corry's and the speeches made from time to time on this matter. Due to these speeches farmers in the Midlands are still encouraged against their own better judgment to keep on growing barley as a cash crop, believing that by some State activity he can be ensured better prices than the economic price of this crop. Now that is very serious. We cannot blame the farmer for doing what he is doing. We cannot blame a man in any business for proceeding on the lines that he knows well. That is what the farmer is doing in this matter of barley. He is continuing to grow barley as a cash crop. He had, say, a middling year last year, and a medium year the year before for the sale of his barley, and he thinks that as a result of political agitation or some agitation that ways will be found, that a method will be devised whereby he can keep on doing as he always did in the past and that it will pay a lot better. As Deputy Jordan pointed out, any farmer who examines the matter for himself will see that with the world position to-day, the days of growing corn as a cash crop are past. The farmers will have to face up to that and to realise that in future they must make some arrangements under which they will consume most of their barley or else sell only very limited samples of their choicest barley as a cash crop.
Deputy Corry suggested in all seriousness that the State should prohibit the importation of barley and malt. Does Deputy Corry know whether foreign barley is required by Messrs. Guinness? I am not in Guinness's secrets. But even when we are dealing with a fourth or fifth rate firm we must assume that it knows its business. It may be that foreign barley is necessary to the mixture that Messrs. Guinness use. I dare say Guinness's stout is sold because people like it, and they like it because it has certain qualities. I presume there is a considerable amount of thought and a considerable amount of science brought to bear on the whole question of producing that particular product. It is just the little difference between Guinness's stout and other stout that makes all the difference in the world to the sale of that stout. That difference is due to factors over which we have no control. It may be that that difference is due to the mixture of foreign and Irish barley. I have not asked Messrs. Guinness what their trade secrets are, but Deputy Corry seems to know all about these things. Now Deputies will have to realise in this hard world that it is efficiency that counts. The difference between Guinness's efficiency and some other small breweries that have gone down has been the difference that counted, and it is this slightly more efficient management exercised over a long period in the case of Guinness that means the difference between them and the smallest and most footy little brewery in the country. Guinness's brewery is the largest in the world, and their success may result possibly from the fact that they are using this mixture of foreign barleys. Anyway, we must presume that they know their own business. Is it seriously suggested by Deputy Moore that I should go to Guinness's, the biggest and one of the most efficient businesses in the world, tell them I am a politician, that I know nothing about brewing, but that I am going to advise them as to what sort of mixture they should put in their brew?
I made no such suggestion.
No, the Deputy did not, but that was Deputy Corry's suggestion. I will tell you the sort——
I will tell you not to forestall the market here by importing £127,000 worth of barley before the harvest of this country is in.
In other words, Guinness's are to buy Irish barley as far as possible, as far as it is available. But Irish barley may not suit them. They have to sell their stout here, in England, and all over the world, and it may not suit them to buy Irish barley. The reason they buy foreign barley is because they want it. Foreign barley is of a slightly different quality from Irish barley, but perhaps that slight difference in quality makes all the difference in the world to the stout. Guinness's is a big business firm, and I can assure the Deputy that every individual in a big concern like that has to do as much work as the Deputy, in his own particular niche, in such a business. It is as a result of all that work, the work of the brewer, the chemist, the ordinary workman and the clerk, that a big business like Guinness's is able to turn out a first-class article.
The Deputy should not argue out of sheer wantonness that Guinness's are importing foreign barley. They are importing it because it suits them. No company with hopes for an industrial future expects to be told, "The State is going to dictate to you what raw materials you are to use in order to turn out a finished product." Anybody who thinks of doing that is foolish, and anyone who talks about it is talking pure foolishness. According to Deputy Moore we are to put a duty on foreign malt or barley.
The case seems clearer for malt.
Why should you put a duty on? The Deputy says that the policy of Fianna Fáil is to encourage industry, to encourage it by means of tariffs and bounties. Here is one of the biggest industries of its kind in the world. We have it here, and the suggestion is that we are to interfere with its commercial operations. Why? Because they do not give the price that we would like for their raw materials. What effect would that have on Guinness's if the State came in? If the State interfered with my commercial activities in a serious way I would consider the question of leaving the country. That is a question that Guinness's could consider, and why would not they? The Deputy might say that that is a suggestion that should not be made, but we should realise in this country that people will act in business matters quite logically. We must not assume that we can interfere with Guinness's or with any other firm simply because this is Ireland. If we so far interfere with the commercial methods of Guinness's or any other firm in the country as to make the raw materials dearer, the first thing they ought to consider is whether they would or would not stay in the country. Of course, that is the first thing they would consider. I do not know whether they would go or not. I suppose they would go if there were not some other reasons why it was necessary they should stay.
What would the effect be upon other firms coming in here? Here we have an industry in being, a first-class industry, and one that is of the most vital importance for the country. What way do we behave towards it? Because we are not satisfied that they are giving sufficiently high prices for raw materials we put on a tax. Would not that be a nice example for any other industry that thinks of starting here? After all, what effect would it have on the price of barley? It would not increase the price by one penny. Guinness's are the only buyers. That is too bad. It is a pity there is not competition. If Guinness's were not there, there would be no buyer except the man who might want barley for feeding purposes. Why should Guinness's give more for Irish barley simply because they have to give more for English malt?
Is not the barley grown in this country as good and even superior to any barley imported?
If the Deputy will look up the daily papers he will see that barley is quoted in the English market at 35/- a barrel when the season opens. Why is that? Because there are people willing to give 35/- for it. Why do they not give 35/- for Irish barley? Is there any prejudice against Irish barley? If Irish barley fetched the same price as English barley you would have plenty of shippers here buying it at 30/-, shipping it across, and selling it at 35/- on the English markets. When the Deputy asks if the barley is as good in Ireland, or superior, that means nothing. As good for what?
For brewing purposes.
The brewers think that it is not, and they must have good reasons for thinking so. In any event, how is it going to make Irish barley one penny dearer? It is not. Guinness's can give the same price and they can make up any losses that they may suffer with regard to foreign malt by paying less for Irish barley. Guinness's are the only buyers and they rule the prices. The farmer must face that, and no State action that can possibly be taken could force Guinness's to give a higher price and remain in business.
Would it be too much to ask whether any representation have been made. There is such a thing as friendly representation.
I do not like this idea of representation. I hate to go to a business firm and say: "Pay more for your raw materials in Ireland, though you can get them elsewhere cheaper." There is something wrong about it. They would not do it. Why should they? It is an absolutely wrong point of view. The farmer has his remedy. The farmer in Leix and Offaly—it is a hard thing to have to say to him—will have to change his method of farming. He has good land, better than they have in the West—far better land for mixed farming—and he will have to change his methods if he wants to progress. I wish I could grow barley. I have to buy a couple of hundred pounds worth of Indian meal every year simply because I cannot get barley. Oats are no substitute for barley.
Why do you not buy barley?
I might this year. The farmers in Leix and Offaly will have to do as other farmers do. Every farmer down there will have to get into mixed farming. I could have con fined myself to saying that Deputy Jordan had put the whole case in a nutshell. There is no use in deceiving the farmer in Leix and Offaly by pretending that any State action we could take would increase the price of barley. Of course there may be a good season next year, but the farmer there must make up his mind not to depend on barley as his main source of income.
The Minister has stated there is no case for State action. He should make known his position officially, because there is a feeling amongst the people that the Minister could intervene.
What I have stated now I have stated every year.
Let us face the fact that Guinness is the dictator in this country.
The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, October 26th.