Seanad Éireann - Volume 45 - 30 November, 1955
Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Bill, 1955—Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Dillon) James M. Dillon
Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Dillon): I would ask the Senators to bear in mind the fundamental problem here involved. The fundamental problem is that we have passed in world markets from a seller's market to a buyer's market, and we are now in the position that, when we want to sell eggs and find an opening in a new market, we are not circumstanced as we were five or six years ago, when the potential purchaser was almost a suppliant at our door for supplies. The position now is that we are painfully conscious that when we get entry into the new market, there is a queue of other potential suppliers behind us waiting for the opportunity to say: “If the Irish consignor prescribes any condition that presents a difficulty for you, we are prepared to waive it.”
I understand Senator Sheehy Skeffington's desire to see that it shall be the ultimate consumer of Irish eggs who is protected by any regulations we make. That is a view with which I would sympathise, if I were in a position to control conditions in foreign markets, but I am not any longer in a position to say, if I get a quota in the Trinidad market, or the German market, or any other foreign market, that I insist on the observance of certain conditions in regard to fresh eggs which do not apply to other eggs, because if I attempt to say that I shall be courteously told that they are no  longer interested in Irish eggs and they will get supplies from some other source.
Our object is to maintain, in so far as it is consistent with commercial possibility, every precaution to ensure that the reputation of Irish eggs going into any foreign market, new or traditional, will be protected, in so far as it is humanly possible to do so. Senators will note that this is a permissive Bill, to give me authority to exempt a particular exporter in respect of a particular consignment of eggs from such of the regulations as normally would continue to apply to ordinary exports.
It is our intention, in so far as we will be permitted by the importer, to maintain the regulation that there shall be a date mark in respect of the date on which the eggs were packed and dispatched for shipment on the inside of the middle board, so that the eggs go to a distributor, for instance, in X-land and are then ordinarily passed out to retailers. The retailer who actually unpacks the eggs for retail sale will be fixed with notice by a date mark on the inside board of the date on which those eggs left Ireland; and he can take it up with his local supplier as to why they were held in storage in the exporting country longer than reason would justify, and he can point to the fact that those eggs were shipped from Ireland on the date described on the inside of the middle board of the box.
I think this factor may be absent from the minds of many Senators. The average consumer of eggs thinks of an egg being laid and reaching his table within a very limited time, but if you stop to think for a moment, the egg is laid, say, in County Mayo. It is then collected, and consigned to the wholesaler, who may then consign it to a shipper. It may then start on a journey which takes a week to 14 days to complete, and it then has to be passed through the ordinary channels of trade to the consumer in a relatively distant country. Surely Senators will appreciate that, in these circumstances, notifying the ultimate consumer of every stage of the journey on which that egg has of necessity had to travel is scarcely good advertising for Irish  eggs, bearing in mind the refrigeration possibilities and the care that can be given to consignments of perishable products under modern shipping conditions. Nobody wants to be reminded that he has purchased an egg which is the best part of a month old. Mind you, such an egg might be the youngest egg available to him from any outside source of supply; nevertheless, it is scarcely the particular facet of the egg's attraction that a prudent public relations man would desire to emphasise.
We are so accustomed to shipping perishable agricultural products to Great Britain, which is in fact no different from shipping perishable agricultural produce to Dublin, that we forget sometimes the wholly different considerations that must apply when we make our supplies enter markets which habitually draw their supplies of perishable agricultural products from countries relatively far removed from their own territory, and which have only recently become available to us as a result of the development of refrigeration practice which makes it possible to send eggs such distances at all.
Senator Cogan said that he wished eggs were marketed co-operatively. That is a wish to which I emphatically subscribe. Any Senator who shares that view would do a great public service if, in his particular area, he would undertake the organisation of co-operative effort to that end. One of the difficulties of the Minister for Agriculture is that it is of the very essence of co-operation that it should not be organised by Government Departments. All I can do is exhort and give every help, advice and assistance I can to any co-operative society that will undertake the co-operative marketing of eggs. It is manifestly a thing that I as Minister for Agriculture am peculiarly disqualified from undertaking myself. I renew and reiterate here what I have said many, many times before in public—there are very few things that a farmer does in the production of the marketing of his goods that he could not do better co-operatively. I am prepared to agree with the proposition that that applies  in a very special degree to the marketing of eggs.
I hope I have clearly explained to the Seanad that the normal marking prescribed under the code of egg legislation to which Senator Sheehy Skeffington refers is, from our point of view, the desirable minimum. However, we have to be realistic and to realise that in certain of the new markets to which we have gone, two considerations arise. One is that the importing people themselves will not have these regulations and if we insist on them they will not buy our eggs. Again, there are certain aspects of the marking of eggs appropriate and advantageous in the case of a readily accessible market, such as the British market or our own, which require to be reconsidered when we contemplate shipping eggs under refrigeration to relatively distant points of consignment.
Dr. Sheehy Skeffington Dr. Sheehy Skeffington
Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: I wonder if I might put three questions to the Minister, for purposes of clarification. He stated that for the purpose of these exemptions each case will be studied carefully and each particular consignment. Do I understand him to say that for every consignment the exporter will have to apply for a fresh licence? Secondly, am I right in assuming that the date inside the egg box will not be dispensed with? Will it be maintained?
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: It will be maintained.
Dr. Sheehy Skeffington Dr. Sheehy Skeffington
Dr. Sheehy Skeffington: Then, thirdly, am I correct in assuming that, despite the removal of the outside mark, it will still be possible for the consuming public to identify eggs as being Irish?
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: Not necessarily. There are no marks which we require anyone to put on an Irish egg at present that we do not think are of advantage to the ultimate producer and consumer here. But in new foreign markets we are faced with the fact that it is not practical politics to enforce our ideal conditions. I am asking the Seanad to give me freedom to waive some of these, which my predecessors have  certified to the Seanad are in themselves desirable. I explained the reason for that, that we are in a buyer's market and I cannot enforce any longer outside our jurisdiction the conditions I think ideal. I think I made it clear that we intend to maintain as many of them as we can.
In regard to the date mark on the inside, I am bound to tell the Seanad that an occasion may arise on which we will have to exempt the shipper from marking the eggs in any way. They will simply go into the country of consignment as eggs. In other cases we will not exempt, where the receiving country is prepared to attempt the sale of eggs with the mark of origin upon them. It might happen in another country very distant, that we would not think it expedient to name eggs “Irish Eggs”, because any people in the habit of travelling there might say, if they found an Irish egg, that it must be a month or six weeks old. That might be a block to Irish eggs, in which case I may feel it right and proper in all the circumstances to waive the law. Our problem is to sell the eggs.
The Senator asked me in some surprise: “Do you mean to say you are going to license every single consignment?” Yes, if the consignment does not comply with the marks prescribed or the code as set out in these Acts and claims exemption under this Act, the shipper must produce in respect of each consignment a special licence giving him the benefit of this Act. That is not as extraordinary as it might sound, because what happens is that where we are forcing our way into one of these markets in some part of the world, there are not so many ship pers prepared to undertake consignments to those markets. Very often only a very limited number of shippers will undertake to go into a new market. It will not give rise to any insuperable administrative difficulty to see that they have the licence which will secure prompt dispatch of eggs for a market of this character.
Mr. Hawkins Mr. Hawkins
Mr. Hawkins: There are two questions I would like to put. The Bill provides that concessions may be made  to exporters. Would this concession be made to persons who make an application and have it passed by the Department? This is a very important point.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: If the Senator has questions to put, let him put them. He may not make a speech at this point. I will permit the questions, although it is not clearly in order. The Senator may prefer to wait for the Committee Stage.
Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages now.
Seanad Éireann 45 Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Bill, 1955—Second Stage (Resumed).