La coopérative sucrière Tereos, affectée par la flambée de l’énergie et des matières premières

The agrifood group, known for its Béghin Say brands and the parakeet, and which brings together 12,000 farmers in France, faces a sharp increase and the Betteravière production crisis.

by Laurence Girard

New restructuring in the French sugar sector. The Tereos cooperative, known for its marks La Perruche and Béghin Say, announced, Wednesday, March 8, its decision to relieve three factories. Two will be closed, in this case the Escauduvre sugar refinery, in the North, and the Morain distillery, in Val-des-Marais, in the Marne, with 123 and 26 deleted positions respectively. The third, the potato transformation site into Haussimont starch, also in the Marne, is looking for a buyer.

This strategic decision comes while Tereos, with a turnover 2021-2022 (closed at the end of March) of 5.1 billion euros, tries to straighten its accounts. A delicate operation. Its net debt has yet increased by 22 %, over the first nine months of its fiscal year 2022-2023, to 2.9 billion euros. The group, whose income is in sharp progression, warned that over the entire financial year the debt will be greater than that of the previous year. In question: the sharp increase in the cost of raw materials and energy, which has led to an increase in working fund need. 2>

governance crisis

Now, it was precisely this heavy debt that had aroused an unprecedented governance crisis at the head of the sugar giant, which brings together 12,000 farmers in France. At the end of a long test of strength, cooperators led by Gérard Clay had initially forced, in December 2020, the historic leaders, criticized for their development policy deemed risky.

Since then, Mr. Clay has assumed the function of chairman of the Supervisory Board of Tereos, but two general directors have succeeded. The third, Jorge Boucas, appointed after the two evictions, who directed the Sodiaal dairy cooperative, will take office in April. His roadmap was drawn. “It will be up to him to complete the recovery of the cooperative group, to deploy the decarbonation plan as soon as possible to the energy challenges that affect our industry and to propose to the board of directors new growth guidelines,” said Tereos.

The objective set by the new direction was to pass the debt below the 2 billion euros mark by 2024. Tereos has already sold its starch activity in China, then separated from its subsidiary in Mozambique and a sugar refinery in Romania. The cleaver is now falling on France.

The challenge is to saturate factories as much as possible to increase the profitability of very consumer tools of financial resources. Especially since this heavy industry must decarbonize. However, the Escauduvre sugar factory perhaps required more than others of investments. In April 2020, the rupture of a dike from this factory, which held the washing waters of Betteraves, had resulted in pollution of the Scheldt. Tereos was ordered, in January, to pay 9 million euros in damages.

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