Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Imports of Oats.

Wednesday, 17 February 1943

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 89 No. 5

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Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  asked the Minister for Supplies if he will state the reasons why present limited and costly shipping [552] space has been used to import Canadian oats instead of utilising tonnage for the purpose of importing wheat, a more valuable and essential cereal from which bran and pollard could be extracted for animal feeding, thus releasing home-grown oats for oatmeal purposes.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  asked the Minister for Supplies if he will state in relation to Canadian oats (a) the total quantity recently imported; (b) the cost per barrel landed at the port of Dublin; (c) the average bushel weight; (d) total quantity intended to be imported, and (e) cost of freight per ton.

Mr. Fagan: Information on Charles Fagan  Zoom on Charles Fagan  asked the Minister for Supplies if he will state (1) the number of barrels (14 stone) of oats imported since the 1st November last, (2) the cost per barrel of such oats (a) before shipment, and (b) on delivery in this country.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  asked the Minister for Supplies whether he intends to relieve oatmeal shortage by imports from Canada, and, if so, why we are importing oats and not oatmeal in view of the fact that imports of oats yield only 67 per cent. oatmeal and 33 per cent. worthless hulls, instead of 100 per cent. of available shipping space in oatmeal.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  asked the Minister for Supplies whether Oats, Limited, have received a cargo of Canadian oats; whether these oats carry any Government subsidy in their price; whether Oats, Limited, have consulted him about the allocation of these oats to millers; and, if so, why certain millers have received no quota while other millers have been provided for.

Minister for Supplies (Mr. Lemass): Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I will answer questions Nos. 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 together. The quantity of Canadian oats imported since the 1st November, 1942, was 54,856 barrels (14 stone). The cost per barrel before shipment was 16/1½, and the c.i.f. cost per barrel was 35/11. The average bushel weight was 46 lbs. The total quantity intended to be imported depends [553] upon what further supplies of oats are made available from the home market to licensed oatmeal millers for the production of oatmeal. The cost of freight on the imported oats was 19/9½ per barrel including insurance.

This cargo of oats was imported to relieve the serious shortage of oatmeal due to the difficulty in obtaining a sufficiency of home-grown oats for milling. It is not practicable to import a quantity of wheat sufficient to permit of the production of bran and pollard even if it might be assumed that it would have the effect of releasing more home-grown oats.

These oats do not carry any Government subsidy but a portion of the cost was met by Grain Importers (Éire), Limited, out of their reserve funds to enable the oats to be sold to Oats (Ireland), Limited, at a price which will enable millers to sell oatmeal at the controlled price. I am aware that Oats (Ireland), Limited, with my approval, distributed the oats amongst its members on a basis agreed amongst them, apart from a small quantity sold by the company to the Macroom Oatmeal Millers' Association. By limiting the oats to the company, it is believed that the oats will be used only for the production of oatmeal for human consumption.

I am advised that it would be impracticable to import oatmeal in preference to oats, even if the oatmeal could be procured. The nature of oatmeal does not lend itself to bulk transport, and difficulties would be experienced in procuring the necessary sacks. Furthermore, the additional handling involved, the loss of time in loading and discharging, and the smaller quantity which could be shipped in comparison with oats, supported the decision to import oats in preference to oatmeal.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is it seriously suggested that it is an economic proposition to ship across the Atlantic Ocean 19,000 barrels of oat hulls which will have to be burned on their arrival at North Wall, after we have paid 19/9½d. freight on them?

[554]Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  No; it is a much more economic proposition to grow the oats here.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Would it not be much more economic to bring across oatmeal instead of hulls?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  No; we would bring in much less.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The Minister tells us it is more economic to bring across oat hulls to be burned at North Wall than oatmeal to be consumed by the public. I wish further to inquire, in connection with question No. 9, if these received the Government bounty, which they clearly did, from the reserve fund accumulated by Cereals Limited, why are certain oatmeal millers in areas where the scarcity of oatmeal is greatest denied supplies of these oats for conversion into oatmeal, while millers situated in remote places are granted shares of these oats, with the result that, from where the oatmeal has been manufactured, it will have to be carted 100 or 150 miles, instead of sending oats to the mills where the demand exists? Why does not every oatmeal miller get a fair share of the oats?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  The oats are being distributed amongst the members of Oats (Ireland), Limited, who are distributing the oatmeal on a basis agreed amongst them.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Does the Minister deny that, at least, three millers who intended to turn the oats into pinhead oatmeal received oats?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  No. The Macroom Association got a small quantity.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Why did three millers get a share of these oats for conversion into pinhead oatmeal, while other millers who are anxious to manufacture oatmeal for human use, have been refused an allowance of these oats? I say that is wrong and I am asking the Minister how does he justify it?

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Why has not a price been fixed for Irish oats for oatmeal purposes and then the Minister will see whether he will get oats or not?

[555]Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I think the suggestion is that the farmers have enough oats to supply the requirements of the oatmeal millers and for other purposes and are holding on to them because of dissatisfaction with the price.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  It is more profitable to feed them to live stock.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Why should the Minister approve of an arrangement whereunder certain parcels of these oats were given to millers for conversion into oatmeal, as opposed to flakemeal, while other millers who wanted a share of the oats for conversion into oatmeal for human consumption were refused a supply?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  This cargo of oats was sold to Oats (Ireland), Limited, and distributed by them amongst the members of that company on a basis which they agreed to.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Subject to the Minister's approval and subject to a grant by Cereals, Limited, with the Minister's approval, of public money to subsidise the price of the oats.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  The sole purpose was to ensure that the oats would be used for human consumption and not for animals.

Mr. Dillon rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy is giving repeated expression to his views, rather than asking supplementary questions.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I ask the Minister if these oats were subsidised out of public money.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  They were not.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I say they were.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I told the Deputy that they were not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  That is not a matter which can be settled now.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The Minister stated that there was a grant made from the reserve fund of Cereals, Limited, which [556] was raised out of the price of flour by order of the Minister, to Oats (Ireland), Limited, in order to subsidise the price of oats. That is public money. I am asking why public money is used for subsidising the price of oats, parcels of which were given to individual millers, while millers, similarly situated, were denied any share of the oats, although they wanted them to manufacture oatmeal for human consumption. Why was that done? Will the Minister give an undertaking that millers who want to convert part of the oats into human food will get a share of the supplies, or is it intended to continue to discriminate between millers?

Mr. Fagan: Information on Charles Fagan  Zoom on Charles Fagan  Is the Minister aware that, if he gives a price of 30/- for home-grown oats, he will get enough oats to make oatmeal? At present, it is more economic to feed the oats to hens and get 3/- a dozen for eggs. If the Minister gives 30/- for oats, he will get plenty of oats, as there is plenty in the country, without importing any.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I do not know what is the Deputy's objection to giving the consumers of oatmeal a supply.

Mr. Fagan: Information on Charles Fagan  Zoom on Charles Fagan  The farmers think it is more economic to feed the oats to hens.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Nobody is stopping them.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Why discriminate between the millers? Why give it to some and not to others?


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