Milk producers in the Hautes Pyrenees in shock: “Danone abandons us”

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Arnaud Capdeville, a 33-year-old breeder, like his colleagues, is in shock after the manufacturer’s announcement to ditch yogurts in Villecomtal in Gers. 100% of its production left for the factory.

On the way out of Bazillac, the hangar stands proudly. In the care of his 70 dairy cows, Arnaud Capdeville doesn’t falter either. However, uncertainty invaded this farm where we have always produced for the Villecomtal dairy in Gers. A commitment to Danone about to evaporate.

“The collection will stop on December 31, 2022” confirms this young breeder, representative of the producer organization that negotiated the contracts for the 227 farms in the Southwest that supply the Villecomtal and Lacapelle factories in the Lot. There are 87 million liters of milk collected per year in the Southwest, a volume that decreases a little more each year.

“There, it is the coup de grace, delivered by the young breeder who invested €800,000 in the farm six years ago, having been in debt for twenty years. We already earn little, we work every day, without taking a vacation. And overnight, the manufacturer leaves, without even telling the producers…”

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DEPECHE INFORMATION. At Gers, Danone moves its factory from Villecomtal to factories

“Who will be motivated to continue? »

This Wednesday, a meeting was held with the board following the announcement of the abandonment of milk for the Gers factory that will only manufacture vegetable drinks in a little over a year. A shock for the Capdeville family, whose total production, that is, 825,000 liters per year, is destined for Villecomtal, at the rate of a collection every three days. “When we made investments, Danone assured us they would be there for years. Today, we cannot do better at the building level. There is real comfort for the cows. And Danone is abandoning us. Tomorrow there may be nothing left here… Arnaud Capdeville can’t do that.

In Bazillac, Arnaud Capdeville invested in the comfort of his milkmaids.  He hopes that it is not in vain and that he can continue his activity and live from his work./ Photo Andy Barréjot

In Bazillac, Arnaud Capdeville invested in the comfort of his milkmaids. He hopes that it is not in vain and that he can continue his activity and live from his work./ Photo Andy Barréjot

Also like many of his fellow breeders, he expects real support measures promised by the agri-food group. “At the meeting, the general manager told us to think about making meat. He is disconnected from reality. We didn’t expect the collection to end in a year. It remains for us to graze. If we made these investments, it is because we projected ourselves in time with Danone.

What will milkmen do? Getting to know other cooperatives in a context in which we will not have the strength to discuss, with interlocutors who charge already low prices? Which one of us will remain motivated? Who will have no choice? Given our volumes, we have no choice but to work with manufacturers. But no workaround was envisaged. We are victims of a fashion and a strategic change of a group that we defend every day…”

The one-year deadline will come quickly for dairy farmers in the Pyrenees. Their future is very uncertain today.

Danone: “Identifying concrete and adapted solutions for everyone”

For its part, the Danone group informs us: “The project was presented this Monday to our social partners, as well as to the President of the Dairy Producers Organization in question. Afterwards, we met with the Producers’ Organization on Wednesday , November 17, to share information about the project and answer your questions. We laid the groundwork for a peaceful and constructive dialogue. Danone is committed to working hand in hand to identify concrete solutions that are right for all.

We will maintain this strong link with producer representatives, as has always been the case. Our teams are fully mobilized and on hand to answer your questions and move forward together.”

A schedule of information meetings with the Bureau should be defined shortly with the Chair in order to ensure communication throughout the transition period.

“A whole disorganized sector”

In Haget, a few kilometers from Villecomtal, the announcement obscured the horizon in Gaec Irina. Here, the fat produced by the 80 dairy workers is transformed into butter and cream sold locally and in Tarbes (Intermarché), Vic and for restaurants. But all the skimmed milk went to the nearby factory. “The workshop margin was made thanks to that, admits Arnaud Darees, a partner of thirty years. We really didn’t expect them to stop collecting. It’s difficult. We’ll have to find another buyer, with people in the market. It’s a whole disorganized sector. »

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