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Bonduelle’s close partnerships with vegetable producers favours sustainable agriculture

The agricultural sector is faced with many long term challenges and it is clear that more sustainable models need to be achieved. Christophe Château, Head of Communications at Bonduelle, has presented the group’s vision and ambitions to develop sustainable agriculture.

90% of Bonduelle’s supply is from farmers that work in partnership with the group. Bonduelle has 128,000 hectares of land worldwide used to produce their vegetables. The group is developing their agricultural knowledge and sharing it with their farming partners. Bonduelle has created a supply model that favours producer organisations (77% of total acreage farmed for the group). This main supply format, which is based on annual contracts with the farmers, allows them to:
  • offer consumers vegetables from field production (i.e. grown in “real” fields, not above ground or in greenhouses);
  • ensure crop rotation, crucial to avoid depleting soil;
  • produce as accurately as possible in relation to sales forecasts in order to reduce waste;
  • plan seeding and harvest to optimise industrial yield.

Producteurs en groupements : Producer organisations (77% of farmed acreage)
Sites d’autoproduction: Self production sites (7% farmed acreage)
Chef de plaine : Plain Manager
Chef de culture : Crop Manager
Acheteur agronome : Agricultural Buyer
Producteurs independants : Independant producers (11% of farmed acreage)
Courtiers: Brokers (5% of farmed acreage)

This model also has many advantages for farmers in producer organisations :
  • firstly, they keep their independence as Bonduelle represents on average about 20% of their turnover;
  • security, thanks to prices being guaranteed many months ahead and independent of prices worldwide;
  • equitable compensation between farmers in the same production basin, adjusted to climatic variations or unavoidable yield variations, because the crops are staggered to ensure supply to the factory,
  • a close partnership with the 240 Bonduelle Engineers and Agricultural Technicians who share their knowledge with the producers.
Today, over 3,400 farmers are in partnership with the Bonduelle Group, which allows them to offer over 30 different types of vegetables and 500 varieties. To guarantee the quality of their produce, food safety and risk management, since 1996 the group has a Global Agricultural Charter that 95% of their farmers have signed.

The group adapts to their local situations in order to complete supply. In countries where farmland covers a large acreage (Brazil, USA, Poland, Hungary), they sign contracts directly with independent farmers (11% of acreage). In places where producers are not in organisations, brokers play the intermediary role (5% of acreage). In countries that don’t fulfil Bonduelle’s demands in terms of quality, or where they would risk not having a continual supply, the group farms their own production sites (7% of acreage).

Harvest only takes place when the vegetables are fully mature and processing (canning, freezing) occurs within hours of harvest to maintain quality to a maximum. Thanks to Bonduelle’s global presence, their vegetables are mainly sold where they are produced. In France, 80% of their vegetables are sold and cultivated nationally. Ready-to-eat salads and prepared foods are prepared as close as possible to the consumer. To offer salad all year round, they grow it in the South of Europe in the winter and in the North in the summer. It is thanks to their close relationship with producers that they can successfully offer quality, ready to use and locally produced vegetables to consumers.

The network of 240 specialists available to farmers at all stages from seeding to harvest and crop and administrative follow-ups ensures a strong partnership. Plain Managers are particularly popular amongst the farmers and are responsible for communication between Bonduelle and the farms. They undergo a 5 year formation that trains them for the job and gives them knowledge about vegetables.

Bonduelle’s support is invaluable to the young farmer, Éloïse Thirouin. (video)

On average, a Plain Manager follows about 20 farms and the turnover of farmers is 5%. The relationship between the Plain Manager and the farmers is based on trust, a study carried out wordwide in 2013-2014 showed that 77% of producers are satisfied with their partnership with Bonduelle and 89% with their relationship with their Plain Manager.

The Bonduelle Group also has close relationships with their producer organisations. Every year, 90 farmers and Bonduelle employees welcome visitors to their stand at the International Agricultural Salon. Bonduelle shares the same vision as their farming partners concerning agriculture of the future: in order to feed the world’s population they need to turn collectively towards sustainable agricultural practices that ensure necessary yield over the (very) long term.

By the end of 2016 the group will define precise aims for 2025. In answer to the major challenge of soil preservation, the group aims to introduce at least one alternative cultivation practice on 100% of farmed crops (drip irrigation, no-till, anti-insect covers etc).

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