Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Potato Marketing Limited.

9.

asked the Minister for Agriculture the functions of Irish Potato Marketing Limited; the annual administrative costs; and if he has any plans to restructure the company.

The main function of Irish Potato Marketing Limited is the export marketing of seed potatoes but it is open to others to engage in that business. IPM are not a State body and their administration costs are primilary a matter for the company themselves. I am at present considering how best to ensure the development of the potato sector and this consideration includes the future role of IPM.

Does the Minister agree that this organisation have given valuable service to the country in the exportation of seed potatoes? Therefore, would it not be advisable to give that organisation responsibility for the marketing of production at home, seeing that we are operating under a granding and quality system in the ware export market?

This was argued quite recently and it was found not to be possible to give that organisation the entire marketing operation. They were challenged and I understand they lost. I agree that they have done a good job. We have had a deputation from Donegal who pointed out some of the weaknesses, such as over-reliance on one variety of seed and one type of marketing. We have agreed to further meetings. We appreciate their problems.

Does the Minister intend to bring forward a policy for the development of potato production, considering the difficulties that have bedevilled the industry in recent years? We have imports from Holland and elsewhere and is it not time to get our act together as far as potato production is concerned?

I am well aware of the problems. One of my first jobs was to try to handle a difficult question across the floor of the House about Irish farmers dumping potatoes into the sea. That is the sort of scene I inherited in regard to the potato industry. Since then we have set up the National Potato Co-operative. We put a Bill through the House for the registration of potato growers in order to get information as to who was growing what and in what quantities. We had a very poor response in some areas to the registration of growers. I should like to see many more people being registered. It appears that when the going is good nobody bothers very much. There may have been a glut but that does not prevail at present. The co-operatives have got together and set up a marketing board involving the sugar company, some importers and IFA people.

The Minister said he has a keen interest in the seed industry. What progress has he made in regard to marketing in east Cork?

Potato marketing is not the problem of the Irish Potato co-operative. As Deputy O'Keeffe knows, the IFA are a nationwide organisation, under the chairmanship of Mr. John Ahern who is in the east Cork area——

One of the Minister's own men.

He is doing very well.

He is a good judge of a spud.

He was appointed by the IFA, not me.