Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Cattle Prices.

18.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries the intervention price for beef at present; and the price quoted by the meat factories.

19.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he was satisfied that meat factories are giving a fair price for cattle in view of the fact that the price has been recently reduced.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 19 together.

The present intervention price for carcase beef in pence per lb is as follows : Steers Grade 1, 29.76 to 30.37; Steers Grade 2, 28.75 to 29.75; Heifers Grade 2, 27.91 to 28.91; Cows Grade 1, 24.55 to 25.55.

The prices paid by meat factories for cattle purchased from producers are a matter for arrangement between the parties themselves.

Is the Minister aware that he and his Department are washing their hands completely of this very important matter and that what he has really said in this House now gives the go ahead to any meat processing plant to pay what they like when there is a glut of cattle on the market? Is he further aware that it is considered that it is his duty as head of the Department to see that the producer gets a fair price and that he gets the intervention price? What he has really said is giving the go ahead to the meat processing plants people to give whatever price they like when there is a glut, and God help the farmer. We are depending on the Minister and appealing to him.

Of course Deputy Meaney is not asking a question. He is making a statement.

I asked if the Minister was aware.

The Deputy is making a nonsensical statement, if I may say so. Anybody can go into a cattle mart or into a farmer's yard and buy cattle at the lowest possible price at which he can buy them. Deputy Meaney knows that. He can bring them into the factory and process them after that. How can I stop that? Does the Deputy suggest that I should tell any of the processors that they cannot go out and buy at the best possible price? Of course, I cannot.

Does the Minister intend to take any action to see that the producer will get the intervention price? Does the Minister intend to bring what he has said to the notice of the Minister for Industry and Commerce who should be able to control the price at home? He cannot have it both ways.

That is a separate question.

As the intervention agency, we are paying full intervention prices. That is all we are obliged to do in the Department. That is all we can do.

The Minister is not following it up.

We are paying the full intervention price for intervention quality cattle.

The Minister says he is paying the intervention price but he is not worried about what the farmers get. The factories can make a fortune.

That is not a question. The Deputy is making a statement.

I am asking the Minister will he not——

The Deputy should ask questions and not make statements at Question Time.

Will the Minister make sure that the factories pay a fair price for the cattle they are selling to him at intervention and for which they get a fair price?

Deputy Crinion is an old hand, and he has sold more cattle than most people in the House. He knows that the factories very often go into marts, and to farmers, and buy cattle as they look on the ground. Like any other buyer they buy them at the lowest possible price. What is the Deputy suggesting I can do about it?

The Minister is going away from the point. The big end of the factory cattle are sent in to the factory by the farmers and we want to see that the price the factories pay is in keeping with the intervention price which the Minister is paying them so that the factories do not make exorbitant profits.

The cattle we accept as intervention standard are paid for at the full price but we do not know whose cattle they are.

And the Minister does not care. The Minister is washing his hands in this.

(Interruptions.)

The horrible state of affairs is that intervention is only for the factories and not for the farmers.

I should like to point out two things to Deputy Callanan. First, a large percentage of the processing in this country is done by farmer-owned and farmer-run processing factories and if they are not paying a high enough price to their own producers they are the people who are doing it to themselves. Secondly, we are not judging cattle and we are not classifying them. We are classifying carcases as being in a certain category of intervention beef and anybody who is trying to convey anything else to farmers is doing something that is not honest.

Can the Minister ensure that the price he pays for these carcases at intervention in some way relates to the price the farmer receives for the carcases?

I understand it is related.

Can the Minister ensure that it will be in the future?

I do not know who owns these cattle.

It does not matter who owns them, the farmers own them.

I know the farmers own them but one farmer may send some of his cattle to the factory while other might be bought in the mart. There might also be an arrangement which I am not aware of. The factories may advertise at one price and pay at another, and Deputy Crinion knows this well.

The Minister should not tolerate that.

(Interruptions.)

Some of the Deputies raising these supplementaries know exactly what is happening and they are quite satisfied with that.

We have not the responsibility for it; it is the responsibility of the Minister.

Is the Minister aware that cattle going to the factory at present are being bought at a price which is less than that paid a month ago? Are these people not entitled to ask the Department to introduce some regulations to ensure that factories will pay a fair price and to ensure that they do not cash in on the large pool of cattle and exploit the farmers?

I have appealed to processors at all times to pay the best possible price they can to producers in a very difficult period and I can do no more than appeal to them.

Is this sufficient?

I have no power to do any more.

Bring in legislation.

It is not my job to perform miracles.

It is the Minister's job to see that the farmers are not being exploited by anybody.