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Support for dairy activity during the COVID-19 period

Social responsibility and solidarity within the dairy sector were put to the test during the Covid-19 pandemic


Alignment with SDGs


Thierry Geslain FIL France • France


The French dairy sector like most dairy countries was strongly impacted by COVID- 19 and the containment of the population – with a triple challenge:

  • loss of outlets with the closure of restaurants, collective catering (-60%) and numerous players in take-out catering; and sharp slowdown in the agri-food industries
  • change in household consumption patterns to the detriment of “pleasure” products: traditional cheeses were particularly in difficulty (60% drop in orders for PDOs). Cheese consumption was plummeting, and a significant number of producers and SMEs were seeing their situation deteriorate.
  • social and health issues for all stakeholders in the dairy chain (absenteeism rate, withdrawal rights, etc.) and logistical difficulties (changes in production lines, delayed deliveries, etc.)

In addition to this is seasonal milk production, which reached its annual peak (usually in April in France) and saturated already struggling production tools. 

The dairy interbranch association, Cniel, has decided to act in a responsible, collective and united way by maintaining the activity of the sector in all its diversity by avoiding the shortage on the shelves, by reorganizing the market and limiting the economic impact of the crisis on the members of the sector. The aim was also to inform consumers of the actions put in place.

Moving the wheel

Three main actions were carried out:

  • Establishment in April of an exceptional solidarity fund of 10 million euros (payable by Cniel) to compensate any dairy farmer trying to limit production (for a drop of 2 to 5% – based on production April 2019). Cniel asked the EU authorities to validate this temporary production planning measure under the exceptional measures provided for by the Common Market Organization. The committee responded favourably on April 22.
  • Request for emergency release at European level of aid for the private storage of cheeses, butters, and powders.
  • Launch of a campaign to encourage the consumption of traditional cheeses very impacted by the crisis: #FROMAGISSONS

History of success

A weekly economic outlook note was distributed from April 3, 2020 to members of the dairy industry to monitor the effects of the crisis and of the measures implemented.

An evaluation of the « Thank you » campaign (see illustration) was carried out: 45% of French people have seen it and it is acclaimed. Similarly, an evaluation of the #Fromagissons campaign is planned.

Already, in September 2019, Cniel had intervened in a similar and successful way to help 400 dairy farmers affected by the fire of a chemical factory by setting up an advance device for the payment of uncollected milk (3 million euros).

The initiative limited the economic impact of the crisis, valorised the dairy sector and approached consumer to agriculture

A valuable initiative

This initiative was faithful to the approach of social responsibility “France Terre de Lait” (France land of milk)

The value of the initiative is triple:

  • Limitation of the economic impact of the crisis
  • Valorization of the dairy sector’s mobilization during the crisis, from farmers to retailers
  • Communication to consumer, with the idea that they are actors in this situation and are closer to agriculture than they may think. This helps maintain a good perception of dairy products.

New opportunities

When the crisis is over and things are back to normal, it will be useful to evaluate the impact it had on the dairy sector, not only from an economic point of view, but also on other aspects such as crisis management, collaborations put in place, impact of collective actions, consumers attitude and perception of the dairy sector and dairy products.

The impact of the campaign will have to be assessed, and this campaign will be used as a basis for future communication of the French dairy sector.

More information

can be found on CNIEL website and YouTube channel and Twitter: @cniel and #fromagissons