Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 4 Dec 1946

Vol. 103 No. 13

Private Deputies' Business. - Compensation for Beet Growers—Adjournment Debate.

In the House this afternoon, I asked the Minister for Agriculture:—

"Whether, arising out of the strike at the sugar beet factories, it is proposed to compensate beet growers for losses and deterioration in their crops; and if he will advise farmers and growers of the terms of the compensation to be offered."

The question was a very straight one. In the Minister's absence, his colleague, the Minister for Finance, replied:—

"I understand that this question has been raised with Cólucht Siúicre Éireann by the Beet Growers' Association on behalf of the growers".

I have been compelled to raise this matter to-night because of the vital importance of this question to the beet growers. There is not the least sign of a guarantee in the Minister's reply, nor is there any hope in it of compensation to the farmers for the loss of the beet crop, nor is there any information in the reply as to how they are to dispose of it. Surely the Minister is aware that in 1945 there were 84,500 acres under sugar beet and in 1946, 78,200, showing a decrease of 6,300 acres. Surely there would be no reason for that decrease if the farmers were not treated with the same contempt to-day as in the past. If I am not very far out, there will be no beet whatever next year. The farmer who would put it into the ground under present circumstances would be fit for a lunatic asylum.

It was a crime and an offence if a certain amount of ground was not put under root crop. In my part of the country beet is the principal root crop. If they did not sow it, they were branded as criminals and compelled to do so. Now, when they have it ready to go into the factories, the conditions in the factories have resulted in the beet being left on their hands. It has been pulled and crowned and left by the roadside to rot, or where it is available for all live stock to eat it; or it is on the railway station platforms, open to all kinds of weather. Sugar is a necessity of life, and when the people were called upon by the Government to grow beet, the least they should be offered is a guarantee of some return for their sweat, their labour and their time.

I am glad Deputy Martin Corry is in the House, as he is chairman of the Beet Growers' Association. If he is sincere—and I believe he is, where the interests of the beet growers are concerned—he will have the courage to stand up, if this treatment continues, and advise the farmers not to grow beet until they are guaranteed better conditions.

One condition of the Deputy's question is that they be compensated for loss—not general conditions.

Every year these growers—who are not only big farmers, but cottage tenants, with cottage plots, in very many instances—ask the Land Commission not to press for the half-yearly annuity instalments until the beet cheques arrive, before Christmas or in January. Yet you will see sugar beet allowed to rot in the fields, belonging to every beet grower in County Laoighis and Offaly and all over the country. I asked the Minister a fair and straight question, and I hope he will be good enough to give a fair and straight answer here to-night. In all sincerity, on behalf of the growers, I have raised this question here to-night, to find out what compensation will be given.

This year, owing to the unfortunate weather conditions, the hay crop has been a complete failure. Feeding stuffs are scarce and short and the beet pulp was always of very great assistance. How is live stock to be catered for in January, February and March? There is a shortage of hay, of feeding stuffs, and now there will be a shortage of beet pulp, as the whole crop is lost. I am sure the Minister realises the gravity of the situation. It concerns every beet-grower, and I hope he will make a statement to the effect that their hard work, time and labour have not gone for nothing. The price they are getting for beet does not meet the cost of catering for the crop. They pay labour for pulling and crowning the beet and drawing it to the railway station. I hope that this request will meet with sympathetic consideration and that the Minister will give the House information as to what the future for the crop this year is to be. That is the question on the lips of every farmer. They are wondering what is to become of the beet and would welcome a statement, so that they may know exactly where they stand.

The reply stated that the Beet Growers' Association were taking this matter up with the Sugar Company. That is a very vague reply. The Minister is responsible for the Department of Agriculture and responsible for the appeal made to those farmers to grow beet. He should know what the Sugar Company intend to do about it before this hour.

Will the Minister tell us if he has been in touch with Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann, and what they are prepared to do? Are they prepared to compensate the farmers and assist them in the very grave and serious situation that has arisen at the present time?

I do not propose to say anything further on the matter because I understand that Deputy Donnellan wishes to avail of a few moments of my time to speak on this very important motion. I hope the Minister will answer the points that I put to him to-day. I pointed out that there was a decrease in beet production as between 1945 and 1946. In my opinion the production will be less unless the farmer is catered for on a far more generous scale in the future. Unless that is done, we will have no beet at all next year, and in my opinion the farmers would be right not to grow it. That is the advice I would give them unless I can get some ray of hope from the Minister that the appalling, horrid and dreadful state of affairs that exists is going to be remedied.

There is the old saying "save us from our friends". I think it would be better if well-meaning individuals were to leave the elected representatives of the Beet Growers' Association to settle this question with the Sugar Company without interference.

How many beet growers are in the association?

You represent none of them.

I was elected by them.

You go a bit of the road with everyone. You are a labour agitator to-day and something else tomorrow. This matter is not one for the Minister for Agriculture.

It should be.

We want no interference from any Minister, as far as our business is concerned. I say that, as representing the beet growers of the country. The question of an increased price, due to increased costs of production on this year's crop, the question of compensation for the deterioration of the beet due to the strike, and the question of compensation for the beet that remains on the farmers' hands—all these matters are at present being negotiated between the representatives of the Beet Growers' Association and the Sugar Company. We want no interference. It is a matter purely between the elected representatives of the beet growers and the Sugar Company. We do not want the taxpayers of the country to be burdened, nor do we want well-meaning persons to be running in and saying that the Government should do so-and-so. It is a matter purely for the Sugar Company, and one that can very well be handled for the beet growers by the men whom they have elected to deal with it. I deprecate interference by outsiders in a matter that is at present the subject of negotiation between the Sugar Company and the representatives of the growers. Well-meaning individuals who interfere can do more harm than good. It is this kind of jack-in-the-box jumping in, wherever one can see that one is going to collar a vote; this kind of manoeuvring that is responsible for the strike and for its continuance.


The Deputy by raising his voice does not bring within the rules of order a discussion of the cause of the strike.

Is the Chair aware that Deputy Corry called Deputy Flanagan an idiot?

No. It would be quite out of order for him to do so, but if Deputies invite interruptions, they leave themselves open to retorts which may not please them.

It is a matter of very grave concern for the farming community to have £3,000,000 worth of their property on their hands and to see it deteriorating every day. That position is not going to be benefited by well-meaning individuals who jump in to give hope that the strike will be settled this week or next week. Neither are they going to help when they talk about the Government compensating the farmers. This is a matter between the beet growers and the Sugar Company with whom they have contracts. The interference of outsiders in this is to be deprecated.

To some extent I do not agree with the way in which Deputy Flanagan has approached this, and to a great extent I do not agree with certain things said by Deputy Corry. I quite agree that the elected representatives of the Beet Growers' Association are doing their duty as best they can, but to my mind there is a feeling throughout the country, amongst the growers, that nothing is being done. To a certain extent I congratulate Deputy Flanagan, because it is only right that the growers should know that there are people looking after their interests. As I have said I agree that the Beet Growers' Association are doing that at the moment.

What is the use in Deputy Corry saying that it is all a matter for the Sugar Company in view of the fact that when the growers approach the company they are told it is a matter for the Minister for Finance and the Government. The Minister for Agriculture is the man on the spot, and it is up to him to see, regardless of the Sugar Company, the Beet Growers' Association or anybody else, that the raw material of £3,000,000 worth of very necessary food for the people is not allowed to rot on the roadside.

I am not saying that for the sake of catching votes. That will not catch any votes for me. The Minister's reply to-day was: "it has nothing to do with me". I think he should not have treated the matter in that way. I say that it is up to him to deal with it since the Sugar Company is being subsidised by the Government. I think I am right in saying that the Sugar Company depends on the Government, and that very often when the growers approached them their reply was: "go to the Minister for Finance, that is his job". I ask the Minister to hold out some hope to those people. This very necessary food for the people should not be allowed to go to waste. I will not go into the matter of the strike because it is not in the question.

It has nothing to do with it.

But the Minister knows that it was a certain bit of dictatorial business from the general manager that was responsible for it.

I was asked whether the farmers are going to get compensation. I said the beet growers were discussing that matter with the Sugar Company. It is the proper procedure and that is all I can say now. They are discussing the matter.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.52 p.m. until Wednesday, 22nd January, 1947, at 3 p.m.