In a study undertaken by Opinion Way on behalf of Danone France, 85% of locals say they are concerned about the future of agriculture on home soil.
The concern, according to the food and beverage major, comes after a challenging period of more than a decade in France. Since 2010, more than 100,000 farms have been lost.
This is largely due to ageing populations retiring and a lack of new replacements to fill those shoes. But climate issues won’t have helped: last year’s historic summer drought was described as ‘traumatic’ by French newspaper Le Monde, who recently reported that winter rains have not been sufficient to replenish much of what was lost.
In response, Danone France is strengthening its commitment to the sector and encouraging new farmers to get involved.
Managing director of Danone France François Eyraud said he is convinced French agriculture has a ‘bright future’. Promoting food sovereignty should be undertaken ‘collectively’, he added, with farmers, manufacturers, distributors, politicians, non-profits, and consumers all playing a role.
With a significant number of farms lost in recent years, it’s time for the next generation of young farmers to get involved. But establishing a new farm, or taking over an old one, is often a ‘major’ challenge, according to Danone.
To encourage young farmers to work in the dairy sector, Danone has signed specific agreements in all areas of milk collection. Under these agreements, young dairy farmers will receive financial support to help repay the installation of dairy-specific infrastructure, and Danone will help arrange for temporary cover to allow farmers to go on holiday more easily.
The food and beverage major will also support training in regenerative agriculture methods with the aim of protecting soil, biodiversity, and animal welfare.
By the end of the year, Danone France expects to have 60% of its French partner farmers involved in the transition to regenerative agriculture. This has already led to a 9.8% reduced carbon footprint associated with the company’s operations.
Danone France aims to have 100% of its French partner farmers involved in the transition to regenerative agriculture by 2025.
Other progress has been made within Danone’s operations, with sustainability in mind. Within Danone’s plant-based milk brand Alpro, for example, now nearly all soy is grown in France – predominantly from Alsace near its Issenheim production site.
Danone is continuing to invest in plant-based dairy alternatives produced in France with a new factory in Gers expected to open later this year.