Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 7 Jun 1934

Vol. 52 No. 19

Adjournment Debate—Issue of Live-Stock Export Licences.

On the motion for the adjournment—Deputy Belton suggested that he might raise Questions No. 4, 5 and 6, standing in his name on yesterday's Order Paper. Questions 4 and 6 are closely related, and, accordingly, the Chair is allowing those questions to be raised. Question No. 5 is not related, deals with quite a different point, and, in addition, an Estimate dealing with quotas will be before the House in the immediate future.

Very well, a Chinn Comhairle, I would hardly have put down Question No. 5 if I had had information that it was going to be dealt with on another Estimate. With regard to Question No. 4, I thought that I did not get sufficient information from the Minister. That question was:

"To ask the Minister for Agriculture if it is his intention to continue the practice begun on the 14th February, of allotting all export licences to live-stock feeders."

Question No. 6 was:—

"To ask the Minister for Agriculture if he will state exactly by what method persons to whom cattle export licences are allocated are chosen by the Minister, and if he will state what machinery, if any, is used to ensure a fair distribution of these licences."

I appreciate the terrible difficulty confronting the Minister in allocating those cattle licences. I see the magnitude of the job he has and the difficulty he has, with the best intentions in the world, in carrying out that job. I want to put to him the terrible seriousness of the position. I should like to know from the Minister if there is a serious limitation on the export of store cattle. Is the quota as severe as it is in the case of fat cattle?

Dr. Ryan

No—100 per cent.

We can export 100 per cent. of last year's supplies?

Dr. Ryan


In effect, that means that there is hardly any quota unless there is an increase in the population of store cattle. The figures the Minister supplied as regards fat cattle the other day amounted roughly to 10,000 a month on an average. We would be exporting that number as compared with 20,000 a month last year. I think that the decrease would be greater for the summer months and less for the winter months. When exporting 20,000 or more, last year, we were retaining enough for home consumption. We would be in the same position this year if we had free export of those cattle. But we find ourselves in the position that we have enough for home consumption and we have 20,000 to export but will only be allowed to export 10,000 to Britain, so that we have 10,000 fat cattle per month, for which there is no use, on our hands. On the President's Estimate, we shall deal with the policy of the Government. I am not blaming the Minister for anything he proposes to do in this case. I appreciate his difficulty. I am giving the Minister 100 per cent. credit for the best intentions. I hope the Minister will take the criticism I offer in the spirit in which it is given, so that the whole House will co-operate in this matter.

There are 10,000 cattle per month thrown on the hands of the producers. There is no market for them. The proposal of the Minister is to hand out 10,000 licences to a certain number of shippers. There may be a dozen or a hundred—it does not matter how many. The shippers go down to the fairs in the country and to the Dublin, Cork and other markets to buy 10,000 cattle where there are 20,000. They can only buy half the number available; they have no use for the other half. Neither have the owners any use for the other half, because there is a supply for the home market in addition to those 10,000. That means that the holders of these licences can buy their 10,000 cattle per month for any price they wish to offer.

Did you ever tell that to the Minister privately in his office?

The Minister knows it. He knows that that is roughly the position. I should be delighted to learn that the position is different, but that is the position as I see it. I do not see how this matter can be handled. There is going to be a terrible loss to the country but the owners of those cattle should not be asked to bear all the loss. Again, I am not speaking selfishly, because I have no fat cattle, nor do I know that many members of our Party go in for fat cattle farming. If 10,000 cattle a month are to go to waste, surely the people who have those cattle on hands should not be allowed to suffer. If they do, what will it mean? They bought 10,000 stores to fatten. Whom did they buy from? From the smaller farmers of Waterford, Galway, Clare, Kerry and up the west, with the exception of part of Roscommon. They bought from the small farmers of Longford, part of Westmeath, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. They produce the store cattle but the cattle are fattened on the grass of the central and eastern counties. If the people who have those cattle on hands, now find themselves confronted with a dead loss what will happen when they go to the market for stores again? They will buy only half the number of stores available. The people of 20, 30 or 40 acres who are rearing stores will get the next blow because only half their cattle will be bought. As the grazier will find himself at the mercy of the shipper if the shipper gets the licences, so, in turn, the small farmer will find himself at the mercy of the grazier, who will buy only half the store cattle that the farmer has to sell. One cannot make very useful suggestions in this connection even in a debate on the adjournment. I suggest to the Minister that he ask for the co-operation of representatives of all Parties in this House in considering what is best to be done in the circumstances confronting him. I make that suggestion seriously and I am satisfied that our Party will give all the co-operation and advice in their power to the Minister. I do not think that it is at all fair that the shippers should get the licences, though I appreciate the difficulty of the Minister. I can give the Minister evidence—I can produce the man concerned—to show that it was possible to buy licences freely in the market to-day. That is not right. A man who gets a licence should use it. There should be no cadging in connection with these licences.

Were licences offered for sale in the market to-day?

They were. I do not think that the Minister should withhold from members of this House information that a council, composed of people who are not members of the Oireachtas, can get. What the Minister meant I am sure was that he was not going to give information to me in public, which would be broadcast through the medium of this House. In that I do not disagree with the Minister. I would suggest for his own sake and for intelligent working of this system that is forced upon the Minister by circumstances beyond his control—British quotas and that kind of thing—arising out of the economic war, he should as far as possible distribute the sufferings of this economic war while it is on and should not ask that it be borne by a few. If he had a committee, council or advisory board —call it what you will—of representatives of all Parties in this House who would have some knowledge of agriculture, they would probably be nearly as useful to the Minister as the cattle traders who comprise his consultative council and in addition to acting in an advisory capacity to the Minister, they would also be able to investigate for the Minister alleged or supposed grievances under which people would be suffering. Everybody gets complaints about these grievances, but when you investigate them there is not a terrible lot in most of them.

I would suggest that the Minister should consider these broad suggestions and I both impress upon him and appeal to him that no matter what the trouble or what the expense, purely dealing speculators should not be allowed to pick up anywhere from £5 to £10 as a free gift from producers of fat cattle in this country. If he gives the licences to the shippers, he is making them a present of anything from £5 to £10 per licence and he is giving them licences to go every month into a market which is supplied with 20,000 fat cattle and to buy 10,000 of them, leaving 10,000 which cannot be dumped anywhere. What does that mean? It means that they will get 10,000 cattle for any price they offer and they can send them across to England at the British price—and all they have to pay are the transport expenses and the £6 special duty. In addition, the taxpayers who are going to be fleeced by the giving to those people of those licences will have to put up 35/- per beast of a special bounty for those shippers. That special bounty cannot operate unless there is competition for the cattle. The case put up by the Minister for Finance and by the Minister for Agriculture was that the way in which the bounty went to the farmer was that the shippers went down the country and bought cattle for export and in buying these cattle for export they were aware that they would get, when they submitted documents, 35/- for each beast they sent over, so that we could trade just to run level. They could buy and export without making any profit on the transaction and look for the profit on the bounty. That put them into competition with one another at fairs down the country.

Theoretically, that is sound and, theoretically, all that bounty should be transmitted down the line to the producer. Whether it was or not, I cannot say, but it is not quite relevant to make this point. Unless there is competition, the Minister, I am sure, will agree the bounty will not go down the line and prices will not be affected by that bounty at all and whether or not you give a bounty does not enter into the question of competition. How can it when you have two cattle offering for the one you want to buy? The bounty cannot go down the line, so that you are going to bankrupt the whole country if you give those licences. I am not blaming the Minister for the suggestion he has made, because it is only when people give thought to this matter that the terrible difficulty arises. The Minister, to give him his due, frankly admitted when we put up the case to him last January that, in principle and in equity, the feeder should get the licence. His job, although I agree a big one, was comparatively easy if the fat cattle were tied in houses but now they are scattered through the fields in the country and the job of taking a census which will be even approximately correct is three times as big in the summer as in the winter months. Yet I would urge on the Minister that the seriousness of the loss to the producers is so big that it is worth any effort by him and his Department to give the licences to the feeders and not to the shippers.

I can promise the support in any way he wants it of the agricultural elements of this Party here, but, of course, the agricultural elements in any Party, which understand the situation, would be helpful. We will give all the help we can to the Minister on the lines I have suggested if he is prepared to co-operate. In conclusion, I want again to impress on the Minister that the reason for my raising this matter here is in an effort to be helpful and co-operative in this matter with the Minister and other Parties in the House. It is in no way finding fault with what the Minister has done. I am convinced that he has made a mistake in deciding to give the licences to the shippers, but it is only a mistake, an error of judgment. It was not deliberately wrong on the part of the Minister, I am quite satisfied, and I would appeal to him, if he is not convinced that the suggestions I have thrown out are the right things to do, not to give an emphatic refusal but to consider them for a day or two.

I think the Deputy should really have raised this question on the Vote for the Department of Agriculture, because he had not the opportunity adequately to express his views in the short time at his disposal and I am afraid I would not have time to deal with this very big question. The Deputy, after all, might have extended his speech on the Estimate by half an hour or so—he spent only about two and a half hours on it— and I could have dealt with it more adequately than I can now.

Better late than never.

Dr. Ryan

I want to say, first of all, that the licences were issued on a definite basis. The store licences are issued on the basis of the exports of an individual exporter for the same month of last year. We have very good returns in the Department of Agriculture of each individual's exports for last year in the bounty figures, because we take it for granted that if a man exported cattle, he applied for the bounty, that is, if he exported them in a regular way. If he did not export them, he got no bounty, so that we have a very good check on his exports in the bounty figures. In the case of fat cattle from February to May, the licences were issued to feeders after inspection. Our inspectors went around and looked at the cattle, enumerating those fit for market, and then we gave certain allocations. In some allocations, it was one in seven and, in others, it was one in three, but a definite allocation was made in respect of the number of cattle owned by each individual feeder. It was mentioned by the Deputy that licences were for sale to-day in the Dublin market. I had heard that already. They were and fat cattle licences were for sale.

Dr. Ryan

And have been at the Dublin market for many weeks past. The peculiar thing about it, however, is that fat cattle licences, up to a week ago, were issued entirely to feeders so you are not going to stop the sale of licences by giving them to feeders alone. They were issued to feeders only, and even so they were for sale. It is quite easy to understand how that happened. A feeder, say, had a couple of licences but he had nice quality cattle—young heifers—which got practically as good a price on the Dublin market for home consumption as they would get if they were exported. He took the price on the Dublin market, sold his licence and then bought heavy cattle. He got something by the transaction and nobody was much worse off.

I do not agree. If he got the advantage of a good price on the home market he was only able to get it because other people were shipping their cattle. He should not have it both ways. He should not have the advantage of a good price at home, sell his paper licence afterwards, and take from the other man the profit which the system the Minister inaugurated was giving the other man.

Dr. Ryan

But how can you avoid that? If our inspector goes to a place and finds seven heavy cattle he puts them down as seven cattle fit for sale. He goes to another place and finds seven nice heifers, which he puts down also as seven cattle fit for sale. We could not get the inspector to go into details as to those fit for the home market and fit for export. It would be asking too much from the inspector, and there would be too many complaints if we were to go into all those nice details. On the question of the manner in which the licences were allocated, the procedure was that in the case of stores they went to the dealers. In the case of stall-feds they went to the feeders. As I mentioned yesterday, there were also some licences issued apart from that. One instance I gave here yesterday was that there were some good public-spirited citizens in South Tipperary——

The John Browns!

Dr. Ryan

——who offered to buy cattle seized for the payment of annuities.

Traders in tainted goods, usually called "scabs" in trade union services.

Dr. Ryan

They are called "scabs" in some instances, but where it is a question of compelling people with plenty of money to pay their rates to feed the poor, they are public-spirited people. Coming to the point of Deputy Belton's figures—20,000 cattle being there for the foreign market and only 10,000 being bought—in theory that is all very well, but in practice it may be altogether wrong. Deputy Belton has a motion on the Order Paper which, in theory, was quite sound when he put it down last January, where he talked about disposing of 58 per cent. of the cattle left over, because we were only issuing on the basis of 42 per cent. of the fat cattle exported last year. The first mistake the Deputy made was that he forgot to include cattle for home consumption. If they were included it would not be a 58 per cent. surplus, but some percentage of the whole. Roughly speaking, about 4,000 cattle a week are consumed on the home market. That should have been included in the total before coming to the percentage of the whole. Deputy Belton made that mistake. In the second place, Deputy Belton assumed that there was no increase in home consumption. Thirdly, he assumed that the numbers for sale would be the same as last year. We had a fair idea in the Department of Agriculture that the number of cattle was not very much over the demand both on the home market and the amount of the quota for export. I stated on a few occasions that there would not be any surplus of stall-feds at the end of May. There was not.

As a matter of fact, at the last census we took there were only 2,300 stall-feds in the country. We issued 1,200 licences, so that apart from home consumption altogether—which has absorbed practically all the rest—there were very few cattle left. I should say there were less than at this time last year. I took the trouble to look up in the Press the report of the Dublin market at this time last year, and I saw that there were a fair amount of stall-feds on sale in the Dublin market. In fact, this year it is less than any other year, as far as that goes. Although the Deputy is right in his theory that there are 20,000 cattle and only 10,000 exported, that may be altogether wrong in practice. Suppose we go back, as he went, then there are so many stores surplus, so many yearlings, and so many calves surplus. The only thing really is——

To kill the calves.

Dr. Ryan

It is the only sensible thing to do. I think if the Deputy were a little bit more logical he would agree that the only way to solve the difficulty in future is to get rid of the calves.

If the Minister would allow me——

The Minister has not much time in which to reply.

I quite agree that the logical outcome not of the policy of the Minister but of the policy governing the Minister is to slaughter the calves——

Dr. Ryan

Quite right.

I quite admit that, but the whole system——

Dr. Ryan

We are quite agreed on that. I am very glad to have got the support of the Deputy as things stand. We do disagree, perhaps, about the fundamentals. Probably if the Deputy were here in my place there would be no necessity for the slaughter of calves.

There would not.

Dr. Ryan


Not a bit, for I would walk out of it if things continued where they are.

Dr. Ryan

It is no trouble to the Deputy to walk out of a Party.

I had the job if I stuck to it.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy usually walks out when he is asked.

He generally walks out when he is told.

Keep killing the calves and you will be making the job for me.

The Deputy was not interrupted.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy carried on this discussion, I must admit, in a very friendly way, and I do not want to depart from that.

I meant it all.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy mentioned grievances. He also mentioned here yesterday that there were grievances, and I can quite understand that. Any Party in opposition is inclined to think that there is a good lot of favouritism going on, particularly where the Minister has practically full control, as in the issue of licences. I am sure Deputies on the opposite side are inclined to believe that supporters of Fianna Fáil are getting more of the licences than they are entitled to, but I do not think that is true at all.

That is the belief anyway.

Dr. Ryan

That is the belief probably. Again, it is a question of being logical in examining the figures properly. I believe that the thing was done in a perfectly fair way. I said here yesterday that figures were submitted on a few occasions at least— they were submitted any time they were requested—to the Consultative Council. The members of the Consultative Council came in—a good number of them are not political friends of mine—with lists in their pockets, which I take it had been supplied to them by some of those who had been complaining. They asked So-and-so how many licences he had got. The sheet was turned over, and it was shown that he had got so many. On what basis? The basis was shown to them, and they were perfectly satisfied in all cases that no injustice had been done. Deputies must remember that the big majority of those licences will naturally go to Fianna Fáil supporters, because practically every genuine farmer in the country is on the Fianna Fáil side. Deputies must always remember that when discussing those matters. What is more, I should like to say that there are certain people in this country who were accustomed to get favours in the past. They were accustomed to get favours from the British; they were accustomed to get favours, I believe, to a certain extent under the late Government, but they are no more to us than ordinary people——

I don't think!

Dr. Ryan

——even if they have titles. Not a bit more! They are only going to get their due. Whether they have a handle to their name, whether they are mentioned in the British Gazette, or in the King's List, or in anything else, they only get what they are entitled to on the number of cattle they have. I think a good deal of misunderstanding has arisen in that way. Some of these people complain because they do not get favours, but they are not going to get them as far as we are concerned. There was only one other thing that Deputy Belton mentioned, and that is with regard to help from members of this House. I do not know that we would get any help from a formal sort of committee. I certainly would be only delighted to take suggestions from the Deputy or any other farmer members. Deputy Curran knows that. He came on a few occasions to discuss matters with me——

And you gave me nothing. I asked for licences for somebody and you would not give me any.

Dr. Ryan

Oh, that is another matter. I say that when Deputy Curran came to discuss matters with me, he will admit that I was prepared to discuss them as long as he wished. The same applies to Deputy Belton.


Dr. Ryan

I am only delighted to discuss those matters, but I do not think that a formal committee composed of members of all Parties could do very much.

They could do no harm, anyway.

Dr. Ryan

The Consultative Council, though they do not represent the people as T.D.s or Senators, represent the cattle trade, and the cattle trade is first in their minds. They think of nothing else and talk of nothing else but cattle.

I would not suggest interfering with their functions at all.

The House adjourned at 11 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 8th June, 1934.