The Competition Authority announced on Friday November 18 that it had raided four major French dairy players the day before, including number one, Lactalis, suspected “for having implemented anti-competitive practices” in the collection of cow’s milk. “At this stage, these interventions obviously do not prejudge the guilt of the companies concerned. [pour] the presumed practices, which only an investigation on the merits will make it possible, if necessary, to establish”the authority added in a statement.
“There were seizures of documents at Sodiaal, Savencia, Eurial and Lactalis”told Agence France-Presse (AFP) an industrialist concerned, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirming information from Figaro. “We confirm the visit of the Competition Authority to the premises of Eurial (…) In Nantes “, told AFP a spokesman for the Norman cooperative group Agrial. Eurial is the dairy branch of Agrial. Sodiaal, the first French dairy cooperative, which collects 20% of French milk, also confirmed the information to AFP.
“Exchange of good practices”
Asked, Lactalis declined to comment and Savencia did not respond immediately. The giant Danone, meanwhile, told AFP that it had not received a visit from the authorities.
According to the latter, the Competition Authority is examining “a principle that has existed for decades which consists in optimizing the collection round”. Dairies frequently collect milk from a nearby breeder, even if he is under contract with a more distant competitor, who is responsible for paying him. The processors then reimburse each other.
“The shorter the collection, the more you minimize the health risks”defends the industrialist, for whom the practice is also of interest “ecological” by limiting the kilometers traveled by trucks. This also allows breeders to choose the industrialist who will pay them, according to this source. On its website, the milk interprofession Cniel talks about“exchanges of best practices between dairies”.
The Autorité de la concurrence notes that the “companies not visited” can manifest themselves to his “leniency program” : companies that denounce their past or current membership of a cartel can benefit from favorable treatment, with “total or partial immunity from the fine incurred”.