Well established to last – Journal Paysan Breton

A major player in the financing of agriculture, Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne clearly states its desire to provide long-term support to this key sector of the regional economy. The point with Philippe Rouxel, general manager of the cooperative.

Epizootic of avian flu, rising prices of raw materials, impact of drought on some crops … There is no shortage of reasons for concern for Breton agriculture. How do you see the current situation?

Philip Roussel

I don’t think we should darken the image. With 1.7 million hectares of usable agricultural land, 26,000 farms and nearly 70,000 workers, Brittany is and will remain an important region for French and European agriculture, despite the difficulties of the moment. Our agriculture is very diverse. We are the leading region in France for the breeding of pigs, calves, dairy cows and broilers. We are also the national leaders in the production of milk, organic butter, eggs for consumption, cauliflower, artichokes, tomatoes, shallots … This great diversity is a real strength and contributes to the resilience of Breton agriculture. But the other side of the coin when you have so many productions is that the context is rarely favorable to all of them at the same time …
You need to know how to step back and overcome the scum of everyday life. Due to our agricultural roots and our cooperative model, we have a different relationship with time. We are not here to make successes according to this or that opportunity, we like to record our action over time. Due to its economic weight, its cultural and environmental dimensions, agriculture represents an important challenge for the dynamics of Brittany. And this, for a local bank like ours, makes a lot of sense. This is why we have always been alongside Breton farmers. And this will not change.

The installation market is particularly competitive …

The pioneers of Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne and the Caisse de Bretagne of Crédit Mutuel Agricole have fought for years to end the monopoly on the distribution of soft loans. And, since 1990, farmers themselves can see the benefits of this competitive situation between banks, which seems healthy to me.
For its part, the CMB has been able to meet the expectations of young farmers and has established itself as one of the main players in the sector. I also take this opportunity to greet the extraordinary work done by our teams of employees and administrators. If we look at the smoothed average of our installation market shares over the past five years, it is around 36%. Therefore, it can happen that, from time to time, in one of the Breton departments, we are a little disturbed because our main competitor does not remain without reacting to our progress. But the general trend is exactly what I am pointing out to you. And we don’t intend to stop there. Actively contributing to the renewal of generations is a priority for us.

Do you want to further increase your presence in agriculture?

Of course ! In our mid-term strategic plan, we have clearly stated our willingness to achieve a 40% market share in Brittany for subsidized installations. And we give ourselves the means. On a human level, we attach great importance to training. Account managers hired through internal or external promotion thus become part of an “agricultural pool” where, for 8-9 months, accompanied by an experienced professional, they learn the specifics of the profession. Two promotions arrive each year to expand our teams on the ground.
Our sales organization is also changing to better meet the needs and expectations of farmers. This year we have integrated agricultural specialists in our business centers who follow the companies with the highest turnover because they require a particular approach in terms of financial engineering. In the same spirit, we strive to offer an adequate range of products and services. Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne is therefore one of the four banking institutions approved under the French National Agriculture Initiative (INAF). In concrete terms, this means that we can, until 2023, allow our shareholders who, for example, invest in high-end projects, to benefit from advantageous loan conditions with the guarantee of the state. We have also launched Agrinovéo, an attractive interest rate loan, particularly dedicated to energy transitions. We also offer the Clé-mat + financing formula which, through a subsidized “in house” rate, contributes to the investment effort in soil-friendly work equipment.
In general, we make it a point of honor to study all the cases that come our way. Without a priori. And our very complete range allows us to develop tailor-made answers.

Let’s go back to the transitions, in your agriculture support policy unveiled last March, you speak of an inclusive and long-term approach …

And that’s what we put into practice. Let’s take the example of a young man who chooses the CMB to open a shop: we provide him with direct financial assistance to achieve his company’s carbon footprint and identify areas for improvement. Our desire is to activate all the levers at our disposal to support all our members in their steps, whatever their production. I mentioned the diversity of Breton agriculture. Our members are in his image. Some work in so-called intensive systems, others advocate sustainable agriculture or soil regeneration, and still others are established in organic farming. Our goal is not to leave anyone on the street: we want to promote, for everyone, the transitions towards economically sustainable, humanly livable and environmentally sustainable operations. Yes, time is running out but we are well aware that this will not happen overnight. We work in concert with the services of the state, the region, cooperatives, agricultural unions … Everyone has parts of the solution. I am convinced that, all together, we will face this challenge. And that, tomorrow, Breton agriculture will always be an important component of our regional identity.

Interview by Jean-Yves Nicolas

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