Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Seed Potato Supplies.

7.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries the steps his Department is taking to ensure an adequate supply of seed potatoes next year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The area of certified seed potatoes grown under my Department's seed potato certification scheme this year was 7,670 acres which is practically the same as last year. Of course, many growers obtain their seed requirements from their own crops or from neighbouring growers. In conditions of scarce supply and high prices, however, there can be a tendency to sell seed potatoes as ware and my Department have, therefore, advised growers to order their seed requirements now for the next sowing season.

Can we take it from the Minister's reply that he foresees that potatoes will maintain for the next season the high price they are now getting regardless of weather conditions?

I cannot see any significant drop in potato prices from the point of view of supply. I do not believe the supply is there.

Will the bad harvest this season have an adverse effect on next season's harvest as well or is there some steps that can be taken to ensure that farmers receive a fair return and housewives can obtain potatoes at a reasonable price?

What normally happens in any production line is that when the price goes very high in one year production goes very high in the next year and you can sometimes run into an over-supply situation and a drop in prices.

Would the Minister consider, seeing that there will be a scarcity in the supply of seed potatoes, reintroducing the scheme where the congested areas were given a certain amount of free seed potatoes and a subsidy from the Department?

The congested areas are in a privileged position now, if the Deputy does not mind me saying so, because the grant aid and the subsidies being provided for these areas are far in excess of what they were ever before. They will soon be the only places to have land if things keep going in the direction they are going.

Surely the Minister is not taking inflation into account? He should not be talking about the few hundred pounds plugged into those areas against inflation. Would the Department not do for this year what they did in the past so that we will be assured of having a plentiful crop of potatoes next year?

I see no prospect of reintroducing this.