Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 7 Jul 1925

Vol. 5 No. 15


Motion made: "That this Bill be now read a Second Time."

This is one of those practical and useful measures that the Government has now leisure to introduce, and I should like to say a word or two upon it. From the agricultural standpoint, this is a very important measure. It endeavours to establish an industry in this country for which the country is eminently suited. I am not going into the various schemes about which we read a lot in the newspapers. I am not competent to judge between various parties that come before the country and the Government, and have put their proposals before it; but I can say, as an impartial observer, that in my humble judgment the Government has really made the best selection they could. That is all I intend to say upon that point. The facilities and opportunities offered by the Government proposals should be largely availed of by our farmers; the success or otherwise of this experiment lies in the hands of our farmers. Some people say the Irish farmer is so unenterprising a person that he is not at all receptive of new ideas and that he is, on the whole, a rather poor class of agriculturist.

I began life as a tillage farmer, and I have spent very many happy, but not very profitable, years at it. I know something about the working of the land in its various branches in this country, and I know something about the farmers, and I am perfectly satisfied of this, in the first place, that there is no better tillage farmer anywhere to be found than a good Irish tillage farmer. I am perfectly satisfied with that, having seen tillage industry over most parts of the world. I am also perfectly satisfied in this, that the Irish farmer is just as receptive of new ideas as any other farmer. But what you have to do for the Irish farmer, and he has a right to expect it, is this: you have to show him that if you prevail upon him to embark on a new experiment that that experiment has a reasonable chance of paying. If the Irish farmer, in whose hands the success of this experiment is placed, is satisfied that he can make a reasonable profit out of the growing of sugar beet-root, I am satisfied he will grow it, and will grow it on the scale necessary. After all we know this, that if an enterprise is to be successful, it must be undertaken on a large scale. It takes a considerable amount of sugar-beet to keep a factory running. It is not an industry that can be taken up to-day and dropped the following season. It is a useful and, I think, a practical experiment, and I wish it every success. I think it probably will succeed, because I think our farmers now realise that there are opportunities in this country, perhaps, that hitherto have not been tapped, and this is one of them.

I have long been interested in this question. I have seen the enormous advantage other countries have derived from the sugar-beet industry, and I was long anxious that it should be started in this country. The Government are to be congratulated and encouraged upon the experiment they are making. We are going to have one large, up-to-date factory in Ireland for the manufacture of sugar-beet. I hope it will succeed, and I believe it will succeed, but what I would point out is this: supposing the first factory succeeds, it is almost certain that not only another factory will be started, but that a third factory will be started and more factories will be started, and every one of those sugar-beet factories started and operated must eventually produce subsidiary manufactures. With the refuse of the beet produce you will be able to produce more milk, to encourage winter dairying, and, possibly, to extend your meat trade. It may be that you may even start "canning" in this country. You ought to be able to encourage and extend the tanning industry, and all these things may follow from the elaboration of the sugar-beet industry. Therefore I think this is a most desirable proposal, and I wish it every success.

There is no trouble about growing sugar-beet, not the least. Any tillage farmer who is growing mangolds knows all about it. The work of cultivation is simple. I grew sugar-beet many years ago, and I have grown it up to this day. Long ago when there was an idea of starting sugar-beet in this country, a number of us started to grow it. We got seeds from abroad, and we grew the beet, and had it analysed, and it was most encouraging to us to know that we discovered we were producing twelve-and-a-half per cent. more saccharine than the beet grown in Germany. If we produced that in this country at our first effort there is no reason to despair now.

Only last Saturday I visited a friend of mine in County Wexford who is a leading agriculturist and who was a national figure in sporting circles some years ago. This gentleman has grown sugar-beet for years. He has grown it consistently for his own purposes. He has succeeded so far that he now grows his own beet seed and he may be in a position one of these days to supply an Irish brand of sugar-beet. This is a splendid scheme. It is now only a question of starting and maintaining a factory. Sugar-beet growing is to a large extent the foundation of agriculture in northern Europe. It is a tremendous incentive to tillage and provides a great possibility for dealing with the very serious question of employment that was dealt with so eloquently by Senators on the Labour benches to-day. If you get sugar-beet factories started there will be plently of work for a large number of people. There is no reason whatever why we should not manufacture our own sugar in this country again. It will probably taste all the sweeter when we know the beet was grown in Ireland. The future of the industry is entirely in the hands of Irish farmers. A great opportunity is offered to this country and I hope the farmers will rise to it. I believe they will. Whatever happens the experiment the Government deserves great credit for what they have done and I wish them every possible success.

There is one matter that I would like to refer to in sub-section (3) of Section (1), which deals with the amount to be paid the farmer. The sub-section mentions three years, 1926, 1927 and 1928, during which a subsidy will be paid. I think in order to encourage farmers to break their land a longer period would be needed. I ask the Minister to consider whether he would not agree to an amendment to that effect. In order to have a rotation I think you would have to start with five years so that the grower would feel that he would be assured of a reasonable price. For my part I would like to be sure that I would be at no loss in the course of the rotation. A longer period than three years would be required, even if the price were diminished. Where the factory is to be started does not arise now but it is of the utmost importance that it should be started as soon as possible.

Question put, and agreed to.