Dáil Éireann - Volume 365 - 17 April, 1986

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Potato Imports.

12. Mr. P. Gallagher asked the Minister for Agriculture if he is aware that large quantities of Dutch potatoes are being imported to the Republic which have been refused an import licence into the United Kingdom on the grounds that the crop is affected with a disease called rhizoctonia and that the Dutch potato is above the 15 per cent faults, which the British Government use as a guideline; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Hegarty: The statutory quality standards for potatoes in this country prescribe that tubers must be free of defects caused by disease but a tolerance of 5 per cent is allowed in respect of defects of the type caused by rhizoctonia. It is [1189] understood that a similar tolerance operates in the UK where the standards applied are not on a statutory basis.

Imported potatoes are inspected by officers of my Department in order to ensure compliance with the statutory requirements.

Mr. P. Gallagher: I accept that there are statutory regulations, but that does not mean that the regulations are always adhered to. If the Minister does not have the information in his brief, would he investigate the allegation I am making, that is, that there are coming into the country substantial quantities of potatoes which do not comply with the regulations and that this affects the many farmers who are not in a position to sell potatoes and who, consequently, find themselves in severe difficulties?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I shall allow a brief response from the Minister.

Mr. Hegarty: We monitor on a regular basis all potatoes coming into the country and if there is found to be rhizoctonia or any other disease present to the extent of more than 5 per cent, the potatoes are not allowed in. Rhizoctonia is a fungal disease and is common in this country. I thought the Deputy might be confusing it with a more serious disease.

Mr. Wilson: Are our standards in respect of monitoring lower than those of the British?

Mr. Hegarty: No. They are exactly the same.

Mr. N. Treacy: What about the 900,000 tonnes of potatoes lying around the country?

Mr. Hegarty: The market is sound.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We must move to priority questions.

Mr. Hegarty: The price to-day is £4.50 per bag.