Seanad Éireann - Volume 98 - 19 May, 1982

Veterinary Inspection Fees: Motion.

[125] Mr. W. Ryan: I move:

That Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:

Pigs and Bacon Act, 1935 (Part II) (No. 8) Regulations, 1982 and Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Act, 1930 (Exporter's Licences) (Fees) Regulations, 1982

copies of which were laid in draft before the Seanad on the 27th day of April, 1982.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. L. Allen): These proposed regulations would increase the fees payable in respect of cattle, horses, sheep and pigs presented for veterinary inspection under the Fresh Meat Acts and the Pigs and Bacon Acts. The present rates of fees are quite inadequate to meet the cost of the veterinary inspection service provided by my Department and it is necessary that they be brought more into line with that cost. It is proposed to raise the fee for cattle from £1 to £1.75 per head, for sheep from 17p to 30p per head, and for horses from 5p to £1.75 per head. In the case of pigs the increase would be from 0.01p to 50p per head.

Hitherto no charge has been made for the veterinary inspection of live animals before export. That inspection and the veterinary inspection at export slaughtering premises are both carried out by my Department's veterinary service and it is appropriate that both trades should contribute equally to the cost of the inspection facilities provided. Accordingly, in order to ensure that there is equivalence of treatment between the export trade in live animals and that in meat I have introduced an identical fee in respect of the veterinary inspection service provided by my Department for animals exported live by sea or by air or across the land frontier for export from Northern Ireland.

Up to 31 December, 1980 the fee for pigs was 25p. At that time the pigmeat industry was going through a difficult period and the Government decided that it would reduce exceptionally the level of fee from 25p to 0.01p per pig for the years [126] 1981 and 1982. This represented an annual relief of about £500,000. It was envisaged that the industry would cooperate in centralised marketing through the Pigs and Bacon Commission and would pay to that body an administrative levy of 65p per pig. However, following on a decision by the Court of Justice in Luxembourg and a Supreme Court decision here which ruled against the charging of a statutory levy the Commission was effectively left without a source of revenue to enable it to function.

The Government remains firmly of the opinion that centralised marketing is essential in the long-term interests of the pigmeat industry. Because of the reasons I have outlined, however, this can only be done on a voluntary basis. I am pleased, therefore, that the industry itself has decided to take over completely the running of the Pigs and Bacon Commission since 5 April. To enable the restructured organisation to get off the ground with a clean slate, the Government for their part have taken over responsibility for the accumulated deficit of some £5.6m of the old Pigs and Bacon Commission and I will be introducing a Supplementary Estimate later to provide for this. In undertaking to clear this deficit the Government made it clear to the industry that a fee for veterinary inspection services would be reimposed on pigs, and hence the draft regulations now before the Seanad.

The cost of providing the veterinary inspection service at meat export plants has increased steadily over the years. This is mainly attributable to increased salaries and inflation as well as to some expansion in the industry generally and increased diversification. The cost has risen steeply in the past few years, and the position now is that the present fees are much less than adequate to meet the cost of the service.

The new rates of fees are expected to bring in £3.1 million in a calendar year while the cost of the meat inspection service is estimated at £4.4 million. When they are viewed in the context of the present-day values of livestock the rates of fees are very modest. The veterinary inspection service is a vital element in our [127] meat export business. Without satisfactory veterinary supervision and certification our products simply will not be accepted abroad, and as major meat exporters we must ensure that our products meet the highest standards of hygiene demanded by the customer. It seems only reasonable that those interests which benefit directly from the service should bear the cost. I propose to bring the increases into effect on 31 May, 1982. The proposed increases have been cleared by the National Prices Commission.

Mr. Hourigan: First, I would like belatedly to take the opportunity of congratulating you and wishing you well in your position as Cathaoirleach. When I spoke here last week you were absent so I omitted doing it on that occasion. I would also like on this occasion for the record to express my warm wishes and congratulations to An Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator McDonald.

The Minister has indicated to us certain increases envisaged in the case of beef, mutton and pigmeat. In the case of cattle it is a very substantial increase from £1 to £1.75p per head. It goes from zero in the case of pigs to 50p, and goes up to 30p per head for sheep. I am not opposing the introduction of these measures, but I would hastily add that future costs along these lines would need to be thought out very carefully because the industry at the present time will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to carry this sort of cost. During the current year we are talking in terms of between £3 million and £4 million extra which must come from the trade and which indirectly has to come from the producer. That is a factor I would ask the Minister to bear in mind. Allied to this we have a situation which we might also remember in the agricultural export context, that 35 per cent of all of our exports are in fact agricultural. This is relevant to the present debate. We must make certain that our exports in the agricultural world are preserved and furthered in whatever way we can. Any upsetting of that would be very dangerous. It must also be remembered that [128] for every £100 produced here in the form of agricultural goods only £20 of that is imported. That stands up very well in comparison with other spheres. I do not wish to overstress this whole agricultural theme, but we are talking about exports and regulations concerning them and I would point out again that 20 per cent of our population are directly involved in the agricultural industry. The allied industries such as the food and drink industry, which would include dairy co-operatives, fertiliser industry, cattle meat plants and bacon factories, would represent 7 per cent of our total workforce. Added to that we have the service sector of 18 per cent. Putting this picture together we see where 45 per cent of our workforce, a very sizeable portion, is directly or indirectly engaged in agriculture. We ought to be extremely careful in every step we take to ensure that our agricultural exports, which are one of the main lifelines of our economy, are not upset.

It is relevant to mention that the agricultural sector — and we will have an opportunity of debating this at a later time — is in a very serious position, having declined very badly since 1978-81. Farmer incomes dropped by 50 per cent during that three year period. I hope that during the current year we will see a position whereby farmers' incomes will match inflation, but that assumes certain favourable factors such as good weather, good returns on crops and so on. The position is still very critical and we have a situation where a drop in income of 50 per cent is not likely to alter to any extent except to match inflation in the current year.

Getting back to the marketing of beef, pigmeat and mutton, together with other agricultural exports, there is a great urgency about streamlining the whole operation right across the spectrum here. The CBF is a promotions organisation and consideration should be given to giving CBF greater authority and perhaps giving it some marketing powers. We are aware, of course, that it is a promotions body, not a marketing board as such. I suggest in the case of pigmeat, [129] which is marketed by the Pigs and Bacon Commission, that consideration should be given to — I am aware that there are re-arrangements at the moment afoot — the establishment of something akin to Bord Bainne, which is a co-operative society. Bord Bainne have worked very effectively as a co-operative society and, in accordance with the EEC regulations, they had to form themselves into a co-operative society at the time of our entry into the EEC. There has been a very serious weakness in the whole marketing of pigmeat in the last number of years and I ask the Minister to address himself to that area and perhaps some lessons could be learned from the marketing of dairy produce which has been quite good.

When we come back to the question of exports within the beef sector, while it is indicated that there has been some levelling off of the position between live exports and killed meat, I suggest to the Minister that there is still a very serious gap here between cattle sold live and cattle sold in dead meat form. The exports refunds are totally and wrongly in favour of the live trade. I hastily add, however, that the live trade must be preserved. I do not think we can suggest that there would be a cutting down or cutting out of the live trade, but I am talking about equalisation, that the actual refunds for live animals should be on a par with actual refunds for dead meat. The proposed regulation to which we have referred already of £1-£1.75 for cattle, up to 50p for pigs and 30p for sheep are not sufficient to cover the costs of veterinary inspection, but I again emphasise that this amount of cost is indeed sufficient and it is right that any costs are borne by the Exchequer, and any additional costs should also come from Exchequer funds. At present, as the Minister is aware, if our agriculture industry is to recover we need a very significant boost to our stock. We had in 1981 a very severe de-stocking of holdings when farmers, for the purposes of income, had to sell stock. Another relevant point is that since 1981 beef slaughtering was down 35 per cent, yet no less personnel were required for veterinary inspection.

[130] That needs to be looked at, and I also draw the Minister's attention to the fact that there should be a veterinary inspection for dead meat and live animals. Perhaps they are not the one and the same thing. I appreciate that veterinary inspection is required for live animals being exported but I suggest that the same degree of detailed work is not involved in the two operations. Another point that strikes one very forcibly is that at present the EEC Commission are proposing regulations to harmonise the cost of veterinary inspection within the EEC of all slaughterings. Perhaps we could get some information fairly soon on that and harmonisation may be desirable from our point of view.

I have referred to these urgencies and I have also talked about the general situation surrounding these regulations, but the position in Irish farming at the moment needs attention very seriously and very urgently. There are many farmers in a very serious position. We have a motion which the Leader of the House told us today will be for discussion at the next sitting on credit for farmers, and we look forward to discussing that because it is very relevant at this stage. There are many farmers on the verge of going out of business and I do not think we can overstate the case. I agree with the measures which the Minister has introduced and draw his attention to the very critical economic position of Irish farming at the present time. I appeal to him to make certain that whatever streamlining is required is done and to make our whole marketing area more efficient and more competitive because we have a potential for improvement right across the spectrum of agriculture produce. I look forward with interest, and we believe it to be an extremely urgent matter, to discussing this whole question of credit and the overall income situation.

Mr. Lennon: I agree with everything that Senator Hourigan said. While the increases do not look much on paper, they are if you add them to the many other increases that are there at the moment as far as pigs and, to a greater extent, cattle are concerned. The timing [131] of this increase is wrong. It has almost doubled, and while the Minister has said that there has not been any increase over the last number of years, perhaps it would have been better if it had gone up at a slower rate rather than doubling later on. For that reason the timing is wrong, because this comes on top of the many other expenses there are at the end of the line as far as the producer is concerned. At the moment we are in a position where we were meant to have free 45 day or 30 day testing, which was passed in Brussels last year and has not come yet. That comes on top of many other increases in haulage and other expenses which come at the very same time as this end of the line increase here.

For that reason while I find it hard to agree to any increase, being a farmer and a cattle producer, I have to agree with Senator Hourigan when he says there is a big job ahead of the Minister as far as beef is concerned. We have seemed to drift in the past few years from having a glut to having a scarcity in the beef situation, but we must have a proper marketing system. I would like to take the opportunity to remind the Minister that the free testing which was meant to come into effect last year has not come yet. It is for those reasons that I oppose any increase at present because, as Senator Hourigan rightly pointed out, the farming community are going through a very difficult time at the moment and nobody knows that better than he, coming from a good farming county.

The result of a survey carried out by ACOT over the past few months is startling. Being a member of the ACOT board for a short period, I thought the number tended to be on the low side rather than the high side because this survey had been carried out by the instructors who are working with the farmers. It is true that many farmers had not been in touch with instructors at all. There are also many other farmers who would be in trouble and would not like to disclose this to anybody. For that reason, I think the position is much worse than it appears on the surface. I would like the Minister to attend to those points [132] urgently. While some might say that the package yesterday is going to give some relief to farmers, I say it is too little too late to a hard-pressed community that is going through a very trying time.

Mr. Ferris: I want to address a few remarks on this enabling draft that is before us. There is no relationship whatsoever between the charges here and what it probably costs in veterinary inspection, for cattle, sheep and pigs and, to a limited extent horses. In principle, we agree that some charge has to be made. But I think it is the feeling of the House that this particular function is the responsibility of the State rather than of the industry. One of the reasons that there is veterinary inspection in factories, irrespective of trying to decide on the quality or otherwise of carcasses is the hygienic aspect of it, both for our home market and for the export trade. In that instance I do not think we should exempt the State from its responsibilities in this matter. To foist increases, which run from 50 per cent to quite a steep increase in cattle, at a time when the processing industry on which employment in agriculture is so dependent and in which there has been tremendous loss of employment over the last couple of years, would be taken as an added blow to the disincentives that are already there for producers to sell to factories. In 1974 the factories, through the co-operatives, made colossal profits at the expense of the producer. Very few of us had sympathy for the factories at that time, very few of us have sympathy for them now because with the export of live cattle they can now close their factories or work a three day week. In spite of extensive processing facilities which are totally under-utilised, increased charges are being levied on the industry using this processing and that will be a further disincentive to make the fullest use of the processing plants.

You may say that 75p on the price of a bovine animal is not a considerable amount relative to its total cost but an increase to 50p in the price of a pig for inspection of a carcass is often the total amount of profit that is available to a pig [133] producer. I would like the Minister to realise that when you talk about an increase of this nature in a section of the industry which has its peaks and valleys and because of our improvement in production, breeding and food conversion, the pig producers who have remained in pig production are more than likely to stay in it but they have to be prepared to work on minimum profit and, at times, no profit. I dwell on the pig industry particularly, because that increase is so close to the profit margins which are applicable to this industry. The State seems to be abdicating what is a statutory function relative to hygiene and passing it back to the industry which, unfortunately, according to all economists cannot take these kind of charges. Perhaps this is the fault of the industry, but in 1980 we produced something like 2 million pigs which were valued at about £130 million and the projection for 1986 is that we will produce about 2½ million pigs. In spite of that increased production, the number of people that have managed to stay in pig production has dropped considerably, something like 1,000 pig farmers are all that will be left producing pigs, which means that they have had to rationalise. They have had to have a complete look at their housing, input costs, feed conversion and have had to improve breeding efficiency. They have managed to do that to stay in business, and that is good. Nobody wants to prop up any sector of society whether it is in agriculture or otherwise unless there is justification for it.

We must realise that our bacon and pork industry has been the backbone of small farmers for a long time. Unfortunately, because of economics they have slowly gone out of the business. Now we have a chosen few who have had the courage to stay, and we must admire them. These farmers have increased pig producing figures, the numbers per sow and numbers of bonhams and they have increased dramatically over the last decade. It is doubtful whether the EEC compensation announced by the Council of Ministers yesterday of 10½ per cent in pigmeat, will be sufficient to compensate the [134] people who are at present in the pig trade.

The Minister outlined another anomaly in his introductory speech, that is the predicament that the Pigs and Bacon Commission found themselves in. I agree totally with Senator Hourigan's proposal that we should look at the whole sales spectrum, particularly regarding pork and bacon, because they are now surviving on a voluntary levy which is applied at the slaughter house to prop up the exports to make us competitive with our EEC partners, especially the Danes. Because it is voluntary, the whole structure of the sale of bacon and pork in foreign countries is in a most unhappy situation. It is likely to change if this voluntary levy is removed at any time or the industry will put the responsibility on the State who have accepted it in the past but, because of EEC regulations, have had to rationalise and go to the co-operative movement.

If this is the way forward I think the State should clearly indicate that we do not want the bacon industry to collapse, because it gives a lot of employment to the limited numbers in it. It gives tremendous potential to the people who produce the cereal for pig feeding and it will benefit, in the long term, the whole national economy and the hygiene if even this voluntary levy was extended to pork butchers who are now unlicensed. I am worried that they can indiscriminately carry on a business in which bacon curers who are licensed have to comply with certain regulations. We should take a complete look at our processing industry.

This draft regulation does not allow us to go into full detail of how important the agricultural industry is, but I resent the charges being suddenly foisted on an industry at a time when they are at a tremendous loss. Factories are totally under-utilised and workers are losing their jobs which are directly involved in agriculture which we all aspire to having improved and maintained. If as a nation we are to survive we must ensure that agriculture does survive and is maintained. The State has a role to play in this. Increasing these charges, passing them to the industry indiscriminately and abdicating our rights under the hygienic [135] regulations that we would like to see operated, is an unfair measure. The principle of it is correct. I would not argue about costs because they are probably not comparable with what it costs the State to carry out these inspections.

Senator Lennon asked the Minister, in regard to the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication scheme, to comment on the fact that there is £4 million approved by our European partners for the acceleration of the disease eradication programme to assist farmers in the pre-sale testing of animals, but that, because of staff embargo, this cannot be implemented here. That is a national disgrace. We have a responsibility to ensure that all animals moved in this State are tested. The money is available from our European partners to do so and, because of that, the State has a responsibility to the industry to ensure that there will be no further delay in eliminating the indiscriminate movement of non-tested animals at tremendous risk to the clear herds and the reasonably clear status of all our herds. If that is implemented it will go some way towards removing the dread and fear of people who avail of the live export trade because of the fact that you can ship to Libya without going through the regulations of testing, without going through the worry of locking up your herd, in an industry which at the moment is in dire straits about making its economic package meet the requirements of its input costs. Any one who has any knowledge of the industry realises that the outlook is anything but rosy. We will have another opportunity soon, I hope, to debate the full economics of agriculture but I object to charges being passed on to an industry which cannot afford it.

Mr. Hussey: A measure like this does not entitle us to a full debate on the agricultural industry unless we want to incur the wrath of the Cathaoirleach and I am sure we do not want to do that.

The measure that we are discussing here this afternoon has been discussed time and time again in the past. I remember I had to introduce measures similar to this and, of course, at a time when the [136] market is buoyant nobody worries about it. At a time like this, particularly in the past few years, when we know that the agricultural industry has gone through a pretty difficult period when farmers' incomes have dropped by something like 50 per cent in the past three years, we can well understand the attitude of farmers and their organisations to a measure of this kind. However, when one looks at the overall benefit that those inspections bring to the industry, it is very important that the highest standards of hygiene are maintained at all times. Human nature being what it is, there must be some kind of inspection to ensure that only first class products are exported and that we maintain the markets that we have abroad. We all understand that we have great potential for bacon, mutton and beef abroad at present and it is right that we should exploit that to the full.

We know too, that our bacon maintained a very high standard in England for a long time and for the past two years there has been a certain amount of criticism of the type of bacon presented there now. That is something we should monitor very carefully, so that we will not lose this market to the Danes or anybody else. I know that the Pigs and Bacon Commission in the past have had their problems, and perhaps they could not give enough attention to the export of bacon, but now that they have been reconstituted and that the deficit of £5.6 million which they had incurred has been taken over by the Government, it is up to them to see that the high standards are maintained and that Irish bacon maintains its place in the foreign market.

We know that the pig industry here has changed dramatically in the last number of years. It is no longer the type of trade that we knew when we were young, when everybody had a few pigs. It is much more specialised now and people who are in the trade have to watch their costs and have to monitor those costs very carefully because we know that the profit margin is not great, but I still do not believe it is as small as Senator Ferris says it is. They still have a fairly reasonable profit. Naturally enough, they have to watch that and they do not like to see veterinary [137] costs of this kind increase any more than we do. For the overall benefit of the trade, it is important that we maintain those inspections and the highest standards at all times.

We have a great market for beef in foreign countries, particularly in Germany. This is something that the CBF have been sponsoring and trying to build up their trade over the past few years, and they have been very successful. I hope that will continue.

We hear arguments time and time again about exporting live cattle — exporting on the hoof — and we have the lobby for and against. It would be disastrous to give a monopoly of this trade to the factories, because anybody involved in the agricultural industry knows what happened in 1973 and 1974, when the factories had a monopoly in this trade and I do not think there is any farmer who would want to see them have that monopoly again. For that reason it is important to balance the trade, that we would have our live exports at all times and that we would exploit the markets and ensure that we develop them but that we also would have the meat factories doing their share. I would not like to see the factories having a monopoly in the trade. It would be bad for the industry, for the farmers, and they are the people that we have to think of at all times.

In view of the buoyancy in the trade at the moment, both in cattle, sheep and pigs I think the charges being imposed here today are very small, and I am sure the industry will benefit from the inspections that are taking place. It is very important that those inspections be maintained at all times for the sake of the industry.

I would like to welcome back my colleague, Deputy Lorcan Allen, to congratulate him on his re-appointment to the Department of Agriculture and I hope that he will have every success in that office.

Mr. Howard: I do not wish to let this opportunity pass without registering my opposition and indeed my protest at what [138] is being proposed here in these regulations.

In principle, I was always opposed to the levies and duties which are part of the package. In their present form they essentially came into existence about four years ago and, at that point, what basically inspired them was a concession to an anti-farm lobby on the question of farm taxation generally. Not alone was there a concession in 1978 for that particular lobby but they were also seen as a means of exacting money that was urgently needed for use in farm development. If I opposed them then on that principle I am still opposed to them today.

I am more deeply concerned about what is being proposed to us this afternoon. The extent — Senator Ferris referred to it — of the increase that is being proposed here is nothing short of amazing. While the increase in the inspection fees for cattle might appear acceptable to some people, it is almost a doubling of the fee. The inspection levy for sheep is certainly very close to a doubling of the fee. In the case of pigs, unless my calculations are way out, we are talking of an increase of 5,000 per cent. An increase of 5,000 per cent in the pig industry at the present time I cannot support and I cannot be part of it.

Another point was made by Senator Ferris: the figure of 50p per pig has often been the profit margin in that industry per pig. Perhaps it is something better now, but even if we work on a figure of perhaps £1 per pig, by introducing this levy of 50p we are agreeing to cut the income of the pig producer by half. That too, is something that is not acceptable to me. I accept the Minister's comment about the desirability to have central marketing. It is something that I have always believed in and I want to see it encouraged. Therefore I do welcome the decision by the Government to provide the £5.6 million necessary to enable the new Pigs and Bacon Commission to start off with a clean sheet.

We are in fact imposing on an industry, as the Minister has told us, more than £3 million in levies in any one year, an additional burden of £3 million on an [139] industry that is far from being in a satisfactory position as far as cash flow and credit and finance are concerned. I say to the Minister, and I am sure he will accept it, that there are a number of ingredients that are necessary to be considered with the object of promoting progress and increasing productivity on Irish farms, and there is no doubt that high among these is finance. No matter how we look at it this evening we are putting a cost increase of 5,000 per cent on pig producers. It is being proposed that we lift a sum of more than £3 million from an industry that is in urgent need of finance for development. Therefore, it is with the greatest reservation that I approach what is being proposed here, and it does not have my agreement.

Mr. Dowling: Ba mhaith liom i dtosach comhgháirdeas a dhéanamh leatsa as ucht do thofa mar Chathaoirleach an tSeanaid seo. Cé gur labhair mé go beacht an uair dheireannach a bhí mé anseo, bhí tusa as láthair, ach tá súil agam go mbeidh réim bhuan, shonasach agat mar Chathaoirleach.

An Cathaoirleach: Go raibh míle maith agat.

Mr. Dowling: I agree with many of the previous speakers with regard to the order that is now before us. I agree with one sentence from the Minister's opening remarks, that is, that the Government remain firmly of the opinion that centralised marketing is essential in the long term interest of the pigmeat industry. Indeed I would go along with that for the beef and pork industries as well. Much can be done in the marketing of our meat products that perhaps has been done in a haphazard way up to now. The CBF have done a reasonably good job in the short period of their official existence. Nonetheless, there is tremendous scope for improvement, particularly in the beef area. The imposition of levies, and anything that will ensure that meat is properly processed is in itself admirable and I would go totally along with it. Whether we should put the actual cost of that directly back to the producer — that is in [140] essence what we are doing because it will go back to the beef farmer who is already hard pressed — is another matter. As the Minister has stated, the levy is small. He might admit that the actual profit in the beef industry is equally small and the input costs have increased dramatically over the years and have left an industry very severely pressed — I sympathise particularly with a number of the small producers. The Minister to some extent has eliminated an anomaly that existed. Though there was a levy at the slaughtering stage which did not exist at the export stage of live cattle, and though at the same time it is still going to come back to the producer, one cannot but have reservations about its implementation. In the future we must look very seriously at the whole area of marketing and the investment that this State must commit itself to in the long term interest of a very important aspect of our society and of our whole economy, because we derive so much from the beef and bacon industries that if we attempt to impose levies we will push more people out of it. I particularly say this in relation to the pigmeat industry in which there will be fewer and fewer people producing for slaughter. Any attempt to impose additional costs on the producer will eliminate more and more of these.

There have been peaks and various crises in the industry down through the years, and it is one we must monitor very carefully. I would think that the State, while it is taking up the slack in so far as the £5.6 million referred to by Senator Howard is concerned, nonetheless is taking something in the order of £3.1 million directly out of the producers' pockets. That is in essence what you are doing by imposing this levy. However, anything that will advance and improve the product which we process is to the overall advantage of the economy and to the overall advantage of the producer.

I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to a complete overhaul of the processing of pigmeat, with particular emphasis on marketing. Beef has advanced to some degree but there is scope for a very major improvement in that respect.

[141] Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. L. Allen): I thank Senators for their contributions on this motion, though a number of points raised are outside its scope. I want to put on record, before I get down to some of the matters raised by individuals, that in Vote 38, page 134 of the Book of Estimates published by the previous Government the proposed receipts for licensing, inspection fees, et cetera, under the Agricultural Products (Fresh Meat) Act and Pigs and Bacon Acts were increased from £1.05 million in 1981 to £2.1 million. Under subhead (a), legislation covering these receipts will be introduced in the course of the year. In case the Opposition might think we were the people who took the decision on this whole matter, I want to put on record that it was taken by the previous Government.

Mr. Ferris: The Minister has changed the figures around a bit.

Mr. L. Allen: If you add it up there was no provision for the £4 or £5½ million that we have made provision for to pay for debts for the Pigs and Bacon Commission. I want to put it on record so that people will know the true situation.

On some of the matters raised, I would like to deal first of all with the pigmeat industry. It is not for the first time that fees have been in existence in this country. These have been in existence since 1930. They were last reviewed in 1978. In 1980 there was a fee of 25p per pig. That was reduced to help the pig industry which was going through difficulties at that time. An understanding was entered into at that time that there would be a levy of 65p per pig at the end of that year which would be payable to the Pigs and Bacon Commission. That fell through in 1981 because of two High Court cases. At the time the 65p per pig was agreed upon by the Pigs and Bacon Commission and the producers. What we are now proposing is a reduction of the figure then agreed upon. Let us have our facts right when we are having an argument about the pig industry.

[142] Some Senators mentioned centralised marketing, which has been agreed upon in real terms. We agreed with the Pigs and Bacon Commission and producers to pick up the deficit of £5.6 million that they at present have. That is something which should help the pig industry in general. Senator Hourigan said the refunds favoured the dead meat industry more so than the live meat industry.

Mr. Hourigan: It is the other way around.

Mr. L. Allen: That is what I meant. Our present Minister for Agriculture resolved that problem through his hard work and endeavours at Brussels to reverse that situation. That is the up-to-date situation. The dead meat trade is now on the right side. That should be welcomed by the industry in general and certainly as far as the factories are concerned.

The increases will only yield £3.1 million whereas the expenditure is estimated at £4.4 million. That is approximately 70 per cent of the cost of inspections. The factories for some time have been complaining that there were no inspections or no charge for live exports. That has now been brought into line so that the whole industry is one. This alleviates any discrepancies. The factories were complaining that the live exporter had that advantage over the dead meat trade.

I do not accept the point made by some speakers that we are not committed to increasing cattle numbers in this country. By our endeavours in Brussels we have been trying to get not alone a calved-heifer grant but also the £22 for calves up to six months old. In so far as CBF are concerned, their grant has been approximately doubled this year to try to boost the sales of meat across Europe. It is being increased from £371,000 to £765,000 this year. That in itself speaks for our commitment in this area.

I do not propose to deal with any of the other matters raised because they were totally irrelevant to this motion. I thank Senators for their contributions. I hope that it will be accepted.

[143] An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I hope the Minister was not reflecting on the Chair in his last statement.

Mr. Hourigan: At the beginning of 1981, with regard to pigmeat, an undertaking was given that there would be no alteration in the levy for a period of two years. We are now a year and a half away from that time. Nobody said the Minister or any of his party were not in favour of increasing numbers. We exhorted that numbers be increased, which is a positive thing, but nobody to my recollection said——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: A question, Senator.

Mr. Hourigan: There was an undertaking given in January 1981 that nothing would be done with the levy for two years. Could I have a clarification of this?

Mr. L. Allen: The 25p was dropped on the understanding that 65p would be retained during the two years.

Question put and agreed to.