1932 Election - the Revival of Tobacco

The decisive victory of Fianna Fail in the 1932 election offered them an early opportunity to implement their stated support for the tobacco industry. Their election and the simultaneous outbreak of the economic war marked an immediate change in agricultural policy. Their goal of self-sufficiency meant that agriculture now revolved around a policy to speed the plough at all costs and encourage the production of food crops for human consumption at home especially wheat and beef. Fianna Fail immediately implemented the recommendation of the 1926 commission on tobacco to reduce duty on the home-grown crop. The reduction in duty was welcomed in Meath as a situation full of possibilities for home growers. The Randlestown estate was now in the hands of Major Metge as executor for the estate. This was particularly fortunate as Metge was the second largest grower in Meath after Everard and a committed devotee of the crop. The local conditions were favourable, existing machinery was in good order, there was a mixture of old growers and new blood and the old curing sheds were still standing. The revival of the crop in the mid 1930's reached a peak in 1934 with 1,382 acres grown across the country in twenty-six counties. The average annual growth in Meath was 100 acres.

It was claimed that by 1937 the crop was virtually on the point of extinction. The rise and fall of the crop in the 1930s can be explained by an almost immediate reversal of policy by Fianna Fail in 1934. At the 1933 Fianna Fail Ard-Fheis Dr. Ryan, the Minister for Agriculture, promised over 10,000 acres of land under tobacco, yet by 1934, he was introducing controlling legislation through the 1934 Tobacco Act. Tobacco was confined to 1,000 acres for 1934, a maximum of two acres could be grown by each individual grower, and growing was restricted to those who had grown tobacco under licence in the previous year.

There were a number of reasons for the demise of the crop during these years and its failure to continue into the 1940's. Other crops returned, with prices recovering after the onset of World War Two and the end of the economic war. Farmers in earlier years of the decade were desperate enough to try anything, as cattle prices collapsed completely. The crop was poorly husbanded, repeating the situation of earlier years where the growers failed to grasp the complexities of the crop.


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