asked the Minister for Agriculture whether his attention has been drawn to the widespread complaints by farmers and farmers' organisations that flour millers were applying varying and unfair criteria in assessing the millability of wheat; whether he will make a thorough investigation into these allegations; and whether he will take steps to ensure that in future clear, easily understood and just criteria will be applied in assessing the millability of wheat in a uniform way throughout the country.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Wheat Millability.
There have been some complaints, usually in relation to border-line cases, but they have not been on a widespread scale. I am satisfied that, generally speaking, millers are grading the maximum quantity of wheat as millable. The question of a detailed definition of "millable wheat" has been considered many times and the conclusion reached was that its introduction would not, in practice, be to the benefit of wheat growers.
Is the Minister aware that, once the rains came, every grain of wheat brought in was returned as unmillable? Wheat that bushelled 61½, moisture content 18½, was returned as unmillable because the millers were waiting for the Government to take a statement.
I am aware that in any season like the one through which we have passed the fact that 75 per cent. of the wheat is accepted as millable shows evidence that the growers have been treated fairly.
The 70 per cent. was accepted as millable when the weather was good but when it broke they did not take another barrel of wheat.
The mills were accepting wheat as millable last week and every week since the first of October.
They have not accepted it. There is no question about that.
Would the Minister consider the appointment of Departmental inspectors to each of these mills to adjudicate on the millability of wheat?
We have inspectors who keep in close contact——
But they have no power to adjudicate on the millability of wheat.
Power is another thing. We have the power of consultation and if we see anything unfair, or if anything unfair is reported to us, we try to act on it as best we can but the question of intervening to the extent of introducing some outside body to determine something for private enterprise in the complete sense that the Deputy seems to suggest, is another matter.
Is it seriously suggested that we have now reached the stage when the millers are the sole judges as to the millability of wheat grown in this country and that the Minister for Agriculture has no function to control whether the millers will reject wheat or not because if we have, we are daft?
The only occasion on which we have tried to intervene in the sense the Deputy has mentioned is when we give blanket coverage as we did in 1958 and 1960. When the State gave assurances that it would pay for all wheat, irrespective of its condition and its millability at the guaranteed, announced Wheat Order price, then, of course, that is a way out of it but so long as it is a matter of making a purchase of wheat by millers then it must be and always has been, their right to determine that question.
Is the Minister aware that in 1954 when weather conditions were far more inimical than they were for the harvest this year every barrel of wheat grown was bought by the millers, paid for by the millers and converted into flour by the millers because they were made to do it?
I am very well aware of everything that happened not only in 1954 but in every year since intensive wheat production was introduced.
Is not that so?
I do not like to hear these bluffing statements made. They are no addition to the wheat growers or anyone else.
Is it not the truth?
It is not the truth.
There was not a single barrel of wheat, so far as I know, reaped in 1954 that was not bought by the millers, milled by the millers and converted into flour by the millers.
There was not a single barrel of wheat——
Gaeilgeoir sea é anois.
There was not a single barrel of wheat grown in 1958 or in 1960 that was not bought and paid for on the same basis, but in 1958 only 10 per cent of it was actually millable and in 1960, 29 per cent. The growers were paid for it on the basis that it was millable.
Is the Minister not aware that in view of the statement that only 75 per cent. of the crop this year was millable, this must be considered an abnormal year since normally 99 per cent. or, perhaps, 100 per cent. is millable?
Not normally. Take 1958, 1959 and 1960 and 1961. Of these four years in succession, the only year in respect of which we could say that the statement that the Deputy has made was true was in 1959.
In 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 it was all milled. Those were years in which the Minister was looking after agriculture.
Yes, I was looking after the weather—
You were looking after other people.
The people opposite profess to be interested in wheat-growers and small farmers when they are really interested in their own business of distributing seed and——
Deputy Donegan will please resume his seat. I have called Deputy M. P. Murphy.
Is the Minister satisfied that the producers concerned made a reasonable effort to harvest their wheat in a satisfactory manner so as to have it on the market in a millable condition because, on my journeys to Dublin, a good deal of neglect was evident on the part of some of the producers and possibly it was as a result of that neglect that it was not millable? Is it proper that some people should be subsidised?
I am calling question No. 7. Deputies should remember that there is a large number of questions on the Order Paper and that the number of supplementaries must be limited.
Question No. 7 has been called.
I think I am entitled to ask a supplementary question.
The Deputy was allowed to ask a supplementary question.
And the Minister has been allowed to insult me in the House. This is not the first time he has done it, either in this House or in the other House.
I mentioned no names in this House.
I left the other House for a day because of it and I shall leave this House also, if necessary.
The Chair allowed Deputy M.P. Murphy to ask a supplementary question——
As I allowed other Deputies.
Yes, but if the Minister has a reply I think he should be allowed to give it.
I called Question No. 7.
Shall I assume, then, that the Minister will not comment on my question?
That is not a matter for the Chair.
The Chair has called the next Question.
One would expect that the Minister would have some comment.
The Chair has ruled otherwise.
Surely the Minister should get an opportunity to reply to a Question in the House if the Minister wishes to reply? I do not say he is bound to reply.
The Chair is the sole judge of the supplementaries that may be allowed.
But the Chair allowed the Deputy to ask the question. That is why I raised the matter.
I am now calling Question No. 7.
asked the Minister for Agriculture whether he will reconsider his decision to refuse to compensate farmers in respect of unmillable wheat by utilising the Wheat Levy and the difference between the price of Irish wheat and of imported wheat, as suggested by the National Farmers' Association, particularly in view of the fact that it appears that widespread use of cheap imported wheat is not going to result in any reduction in the price of bread to the consumer.
There is nothing I can usefully add to the reply given by me on 15th November to the Questions asked by Deputies Donegan, Esmonde, Lynch and O'Higgins.
While the Minister knows nothing about wheat, why should he impute that knowing something about it is a crime?
Is it not a crime? I thought the Deputy was an agriculturist. "One more cow, one more sow, one more acre under the plough"—was that not the doctrine?
Now, the Minister is going to condemn me because I know something about wheat.
No, you are condemned——
You will make no personal implications against me and get away with it.
I will; you will be trimmed in every place I meet you.
You will be trimmed back.
The Minister has trimmed the farmers this year.
The Minister should be allowed to reply without interruption.
He cannot expect to be heard in silence.
Nobody is worrying about the farmers on the other side of the House except agents and flour millers and I am acting for the farmers.
Out of the three truculent Deputies on the other side, one is a miller's agent, another is a baker and another a baker and merchant and I am defending the poor farmers as best I can.
I am neither an agent nor a flour miller.
I am obliged to intervene to state that the statement just made by the Minister for Agriculture is an insolent falsehood.
Of course it is.
If the Minister wishes to bring the debate in this House down to the gutter he is going the right way about it.