Dáil Éireann - Volume 192 - 06 December, 1961
Committee on Finance. - Vote 43—Agriculture (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That a supplementary sum not exceeding £10,300,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1962, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture, including certain Services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain  subsidies and sundry Grants-in-Aid.
—(Minister for Agriculture.)
Mr. T. O'Donnell Mr. T. O'Donnell
Mr. T. O'Donnell: I wish to make some comment on some of the items which appear in this Supplementary Estimate. First of all, I welcome the contribution of £4,000 to Macra na Feirme and the Irish Countrywomen's Association. I feel it is only right and just that voluntary effort and self-help should be assisted where possible by Government agencies working in the same field. Macra na Feirme, in particular, has made a notable contribution to the promotion of agricultural education during the 15 years since its foundation. I believe that in the future Macra will play a still more vital role and for that reason I welcome the contribution. While welcoming the contribution from the Government to this voluntary organisation, I sincerely hope that the organisation will be allowed to control its own affairs and that there will be no strings attached to this grant.
The marketing of dairy produce is a matter which vitally affects the constituency I have the honour to represent. The recent action of the British Government, while it has come as a surprise to many people, was not, however, entirely unexpected by those who are closely associated with the dairying industry. One thing the butter crisis has done is to force us into a realisation that we must take immediate action to find manufacturing outlets for our milk other than butter manufacture. In this impasse, there seem to be a number of alternative lines of action.
First of all, we might endeavour to increase the home consumption of milk and milk products. Secondly, we could try to find an alternative market for our butter. Thirdly, we could divert our surplus milk into alternative markets such as powdered milk and so on. Fourthly, there is the proposal which was put forward yesterday by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association and I compliment that organisation on putting forward one practical solution to this problem. We have very little scope for increasing the home consumption of milk and milk products. Our per capita consumption  of butter is pretty high by European standards but there is however, scope for increasing the consumption on the home market of milk and cheese. I believe that a well directed sales promotion campaign through the medium of the Press, the radio and television, when we have it, could go a long way towards increasing the consumption of milk and cheese by the Irish people. Our consumption of cheese is pretty low by European or international standards and there is considerable scope for increasing it. In regard to looking for alternative markets for our butter I believe there might be slight hope there, but not very much.
If Bord Bainne tackled this business in a determined fashion it might be possible to find another market for our butter outside of Britain. It might be worth while exploring the American market in view of the large number of Irish people, or people of Irish extraction, living in the United States. With regard to improving outlets for supplies of milk, cheese offers quite a good alternative. An argument has been put forward that the production of better quality cheese has been held up by reason of the fact that our farmers are not producing the high quality milk required to manufacture the more specialised or luxury type of cheese. If the dairy farmers are given an incentive to produce that better quality milk needed for high class cheese production sufficient milk to meet the demand will be produced.
What has happened up to now is that the farmers have been told that a special high quality milk is needed for powdered milk and for cheese and have been told to get their byres into the hygienic condition that is necessary and have still received only the same prices for their milk. If we give them an incentive we shall get the results.
There is chaos in regard to what I would call the manufacturing organisation in relation to milk. The whole situation is disorganised. In County Limerick, which produces roughly 43,000,000 gallons of milk per annum, much of the milk requires a considerable amount of transport each day to  Dungarvan, Rathmore and Mallow. If we want to go into international markets with milk production we must localise our manufacturing end in the dairying and milk producing areas. It was a ridiculous thing to erect a cheese factory in County Wexford and I do not know the reason for doing so. There is room for centralising the manufacture of milk products and these industries should be on a large scale. The city of Limerick, being in the centre of the dairying industry, would be an ideal place for such an industry.
Another item dealt with in the Supplementary Estimate, the eradication of bovine tuberculosis, is also a matter which vitally affects the constituency I represent. I am sorry to say that the progress of this scheme has not been at all satisfactory in County Limerick and I would go so far as to say that it has been a colossal failure there. If there is an annual report at the end of the year dealing with the progress of the scheme, it will show that it has been a failure in County Limerick. I suggest the Minister might review this scheme, taking into account the peculiar circumstances relating to County Limerick, where there is a very high number of dairy cows and where the incidence of bovine tuberculosis is 49.2 per cent. Practically half the dairy cows have gone down in the test. A new approach must be adopted and I would suggest an incentive, by way of extra bonus on the gallon of milk, to be given to farmers in the creamery areas. I wish to compliment the Agricultural Institute on the excellent work it has been doing. Agricultural research is vitally important, especially in the highly competitive era we are about to enter; but I believe agricultural research is going only half way, unless the fruits of it can be brought to the farmer's doorstep.
In regard to the Faculty of Agriculture at U.C.D., again it is necessary that the results of research be brought to the farmer. We need an agricultural advisory service to do that. I would ask the Minister to bear in mind that we are now exporting agricultural graduates. Last week, I saw off a  friend of mine, an agricultural graduate, who was going to Nigeria, along with four of his friends to take up work there. In the previous week, five others had left. Over the past couple of years, graduates are working in occupations for which they have not been trained, in vocational schools and so on, while the agricultural advisory service is starved for lack of graduates. We are producing an adequate number but we are not absorbing them into employment. I cannot see how we can survive in the Common Market without an agricultural advisory service comparable with the advisory services in other progressive agricultural countries.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Dáil Éireann 192 Committee on Finance. Vote 43—Agriculture (Resumed).