Dispatches from SPACE 2017

Sanders Euralis looks to develop a French soybean chain

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© istock
© istock

Related tags Organic feed Soybean

Sanders, the animal feed business of French agri group, Avril, in conjunction with the cooperative, Euralis, are backing French protein production through the opening of a soybean crushing facility in Vic-en-Bigorre, in the southwest of France.

The SOJALIM plant, which was inaugurated earlier this month and is already operational, cost €3.6m; it has a crushing capacity of 25,000 tons of soybeans, including 5,000 tons of organic beans, serving livestock production sectors in southwest France.

Bernard Mahe, general manager of Sanders told FeedNavigator at SPACE 2017, the crush facility is a major step in the development of a 100% French-based soybean sector.

“We consider that in organic production, in particular, traceability of raw materials like soy is very important,”​ he said.

Avril said the soy crushing plant is the logical consequence of the tie-up in the southwest, established in 2013, between Sanders and Euralis, a group with extensive seeds expertise. 

The SOJALIM facility will support the production of a locally grown, traceable, non-GMO alternative to imported soybeans from South America, said the partners.

The demand for non-GMO feed is growing in France, said Mahe.

“We are one of the biggest providers to McDonalds in France and it wants only non-GMO production …Carrefour in France wants all its meat production to be non-GMO.” 

Sander Euralis production site Vic-en-Bigorre

The idea is a pig in the southwest of France, for example, could be reared on only locally produced raw materials, said Mahe.

He said Sanders has long been looking to reduce its reliance on protein imports. 

“Ten years ago, about 80% of Sanders’ protein part was imported. Now, we import only around 40 to 50% of our protein raw materials.”

The feed group’s parent company, Avril, has been active in the rapeseed-crushing sector. 

“Soy imports have become less and less important. Some 80% of Sanders’ raw materials, overall, now come from France – cereals, rapeseed and soy, more and more.”

SOJALIM is based at the Sanders-Euralis cattle feed manufacturing site in Vic-en-Bigorre, which will use some of the oilseed meal, hulls and oils the crush facility generates. Another share is to be shipped to the Sanders-Euralis unit in Lons in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, with both mills supplying poultry, pig and ruminant producers throughout the region.

Background to SOJALIM project 

Farmers in the southwest have been growing soybeans for several years, said regional pig player, FIPSO, which is one of the stakeholders in the SOJALIM plant project. The region, however, lacked a crushing facility to extract the oil and separate the meal.

The French Federation of Oilseed and Protein Producers (FOP) encouraged the Avril group and Sofiproteol, its finance and development company, to revitalize French origin soy cultivation and crushing.  

In January 2015, the Avril and Euralis groups, along with French retailing giant, Carrefour, and FIPSO drew up a revitalization plan for French soy, which culminated in May 2016 in the signing of a partnership to develop the soybean sector in the south-west of France.  

The project also got the backing of the Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée region and, with the support of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), the plant received a grant of €750K in total, which represented 20% of the invested capital, said the partners.

Currently at 140,000 hectares, the goal is to have 200,000 hectares of soy cultivation in France by 2020, said Avril, with Euralis to provide expertise in research and in the production and marketing of seed. That cooperative is also said to be providing support for farmers who are looking for a new outlet that will allow them to diversify their land use.

Organic feed

Besides the promotion of France origin soy, Mahe told us that Sanders is supporting the development of organic feed production in the country. We met up with him at SPACE in Rennes last week.

“For us, it is very important to have feed for all types of animal production.”

In April this year, the group announced the renovation of its organic feed plant in Rethel in the northeast of France, to the tune of €1m. That facility now has capacity of 20,000 tons of organic feed per annum. Sanders operates another dedicated organic feed mill at Allègre-les-Fumades in the southeast, and its poultry feed plant in Guingamp in Brittany has just been converted to organic production.

“When you speak about organic feed in France, it is really about supplying layer production. The objective, though, is to be able to produce organic feed for all production [segments]. Now, we have three feed mills for organic feed. The tonnage is not huge, but, by next year, we hope to be able to produce around 30,000 tons of organic feed per annum,”​ he said.

Regional development

Sanders is the leading feed manufacturer in France with 23 animal feed plants across seven regions and output of about 3.4 million tons of feed per year. It has seen a raft of investments and alliances in the past year. 

sanders-chiffres-cles (1)
Broiler production remains dominant segment for Sanders' feed output © Sanders

“Each year we invest about €10m CAPEX in our feed mills; this year our biggest investment was in our feed mills in Brittany - €8m across three sites,”​ said Mahe.

Each one of those plants in Brittany produces 0.5m tons of feed per year, he added.

Mahe said Sanders’ growth strategy is about leveraging partnerships to grow its feed business on a regional basis. 

Last week saw the group sign a joint venture deal with Nealia, an animal nutrition producer supplying farmers in the north-east region of France, with the goal of strengthening the capacity of both parties to support livestock farmers in that area in the economic management of their farms.

The partners said the alliance, which will begin in earnest in January next year, has the potential to boost the competitiveness and the productivity of the farms in that region.

Antibiotic reduction

Mahe also stressed the importance of antibiotic free production for Sanders.

Research into the quality of feed and nutrition, along with the optimization of farm management, will encourage a reduction in the use of antibiotics, he added.

Smart farming is also a focus. Farmers have lots of data, but not many companies are able to give an overall vison, really sharp analysis of all this data, he said. “We want to be able to sell services to dairy farmers, to increase their profitability, to provide technical advice to improve the quality of the milk produced on farms and to improve the health of the cows.”

Sanders wants to ensure its dairy and pig feed output remains stable; most growth for the company will come from development of the poultry sector in France, particularly from production with regional labels and strong reputations for quality, said Mahe.

Most French retailers are putting pressure on farmers to have cage free egg production by 2025. “We are helping the sector to transform, but it is a big challenge.”

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