Bel West Producers Association (APBO) and Bel Group strengthen their agreement for a profitable and sustainable dairy industry

In December 2017, following several months of talks and consultations, Bel and the Bel West Producers Association (Association des Producteurs de lait Bel Ouest — APBO) announced a jointly prepared and model agreement within the dairy industry. The agreement is unprecedented in more ways than one:

  • It guarantees a year-long average benchmark price for milk purchased from producers, providing them with financial visibility and safeguarding their income;
  • It concerns Bel’s entire milk collection in France. Over 400 million liters of milk are collected annually from APBO member-producers, in over 800 dairy farms;
  • It integrates, enshrines and rewards differentiating, sustainable farming practices, such as pasture grazing and GMO-free animal feed for dairy herds, to meet evolving consumer expectations and the drive by the APBO and Bel to build a sustainable business model.

A year after announcing their unprecedented agreement for better milk prices, Bel and the APBO have agreed to strengthen their partnership, which shows that forging new working relations among manufacturers and farmers is possible.

Successful partnership between Bel and the APBO provides an example of a new relationship between manufacturer and producer to develop a sustainable and profitable business model

Since January 2018, this pioneering agreement has been collectively and widely implemented thanks to the commitment and engagement of all APBO dairy producers. The measures in the agreement have been deployed in all the farms that produce milk collected by Bel in France. Today, all producers have facilitated access to pasture grazing for their herds (at least 150 days a year) and have successfully made the switch to GMO-free animal feed.

The jointly prepared agreement with Bel makes us true partners and drivers of this initiative”, said Gilles Pousse, APBO Chairman. “It’s viewed as innovative in the agricultural world and a step toward a truly structured industry. We are very proud of the first year of this partnership, and its deployment among all our members attests to the strength of the win-win business model we are seeking to build.

Renewed agreement seeks to engage all dairy players

A review of the agreement’s first year of application shows the ability of Bel and APBO producers to build the foundations of a profitable and sustainable business model.

The agreement, renewed for all of 2019, stipulates an average 2019 benchmark price of €350 per 1,000 liters of milk purchased from APBO producers, as well as incentives for applying differentiating farming practices, namely monthly bonuses of €15 per 1,000 liters of milk from dairy herds raised on GMO-free foodstuffs, and €6 per 1,000 liters of milk from dairy herds pasture grazed a minimum of 150 days during the year.

The renewed partnership constitutes a fundamental step for milk producers, all of who have switched to GMO-free animal feed and will, accordingly, benefit from the monthly bonus all year long.

We decided to renew our agreement with the APBO, which represents a significant investment for the Group, because we are convinced that it is the only acceptable path possible for building a sustainable business model that creates shared value,” said Antoine Fiévet, Bel Group Chairman and CEO. “This initiative is perfectly in sync with the philosophy of France’s EGA (Etats Généraux de l’Alimentation – national agri-food objectives and law).”

Initiative now supported by Bel Group brands

As a result of the new commitment, milk in Mini Babybel®, Kiri®, Boursin®, Cousteron®, and Port-Salut® products made at Bel’s French plants will now come from cows fed with GMO-free foodstuffs and herds given greater access to pasture grazing of at least 150 days a year (at a rate of 94% to 100%, depending on the brand). These commitments will be highlighted to consumers directly on the products, starting in January 2019.

This innovative approach developed with the APBO is a model of transformation that doesn’t stop at the doorstep of our plants and will be supported by our brands,” said Jennifer Marquet, General Manager, Bel France. “We want to raise awareness and highlight our shared commitments to our consumers. They will then be able to choose to support sustainable producers and practices, and thus make this an enduring model. It’s now vital that all players in the sector — in particular retailers — get onboard and support this new business model.”

By renewing the agreement, Bel and APBO producers have set a clear goal of getting all industry players involved, particularly retailers, in order to ensure its sustainability.

About the APBO

The Bel West Producers Association (Association des Producteurs Bel de l’Ouest – APBO) is a publicly recognized Producers Organization operating since 2012. Today, it includes over 800 farmers, or all of the dairy producers who contract with Bel in France. Its milk collection zone encompasses six French departments, including the Orne, the Eure-et-Loir, the Loir-et-Cher, the Maine-et-Loire, the Sarthe, and the Mayenne.

The APBO covers three French dairy farming territories historically tied to Bel Group plants, including the Sablé-sur-Sarthe territory, represented by Gilles Pousse, the Perche territory, represented by Hervé Coursimault and the Maine territory, represented by Anne-Laure Dutertre.

The APBO concluded a framework agreement with the Bel Group as early as 2012. The APBO owns and guarantees the specifications for the differentiation initiative.

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