Small Growers Scheme
The success of the crop, £2000 generated in wages on the farms of ten growers in Meath in 1909, led to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction introducing a scheme in 1910 for small growers. This was aimed at allowing local farmers grow half to one-acre plots of tobacco on their farms. By 1910 the numbers of growers increased from ten to forty-eight as farmers saw the success of their neighbours, some with just pure bog soil. John Nevin, understeward on the Randlestown estate, claimed in the Meath Chronicle of March 14th, 1925 that emigration was unknown in the district on account of the success of the crop. In 1914 the number of growers increased to seventy-one, with an acreage of 114. At this point, a subsidy of £25 an acre was been given to the rehandler, Everard, and he gave half of this back to the grower as a guaranteed profit. In addition, Everard funded curing barns on growers' land, lending them £8000 for this purpose. 1914 also marked the arrival of a ten-year scheme financed by the treasury to experiment in tobacco growing.
The total fund amounted to £70,000. This scheme sanctioned the building of two rehandling stations, one in Randlestown and the other in Adare, to process the crop. The Randlestown station of 1915 was modelled on a station in Kentucky. This station contributed £2000 to the local economy at a time when the estate workers earned ten shillings, or 63 cents, per week. World War One impacted on the agricultural economy of Ireland by increasing demand for traditional food crops. Growers wanted to capitalise on this revival and asked Everard if they could opt out of the tobacco for a few years. Everard was not agreeable to this since he was committed to growing 114 acres of the crop each year for ten years under the Department's development programme. The growers' dealings with Everard at this time reflect the underlying 'them' and 'us' relationship between the landlord and the small farmer. External factors intervened to make the position of home-grown tobacco even more difficult.
The reopening of sea lanes after World War One brought cheap tobacco 'from far-flung colonies' into direct competition with manufacturers. Global and local difficulties almost reduced the crop to extinction by 1923, with only 33.25 acres grown nationally. The manufacturers' view changed radically over this time from eulogising a flavour which was very nearly perfect to not wishing to take the risk of purchasing it and introducing it into their blend. The crops of 1920, 1921 and 1922 remained unsold. Reviewing the period 1908-24, one local grower, Major Metge from Athlumney concluded that the ills of the crop could be attributed to three main factors: - prejudiced ignorance by the population at large who believed that tobacco was solely a tropical plant and was ill-suited to Irish climatic conditions; personal prejudice by the minister of the day who failed to appreciate the advantages of the industry; treasury prejudice, which amounted to vexatious duty on home-grown tobacco.
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