SUS-CHAIN: Case Studies
BE: Biomelk Vlaanderen – organic milk in FlandersBiomelk Vlaanderen is a farmers co-operative founded in 2002 by 25 organic dairy farmers of the Flemish region. It was founded as an answer to a crisis situation when a collection round for organic milk was stopped after a year and a half. Several producers had converted to organic agriculture because of this collection round and were threatened in their existence. The producers decided to take their future into their own hands and found a dairy themselves.
The co-operative only organises a collection round for the organic milk in the region. It collects 5 Mio litres of milk yearly. Producers are spread all over the Flemish region and the collection of the milk is very inefficient and thus expensive. The milk is afterwards sold to local organic processors, but about 20 % of the milk (2004) has to be sold on the conventional market. There is a price premium for the organic milk, but the price paid to the farmers depends on the amount of milk sold organically.
The co-operative is entirely run by its members (farmers). When founded, the co-operative intended to grow rapidly, as the sector did in the years before, but until now, there was no growth since there were no dairy farmers converting to organic production. One of the reasons for this is a general standstill in growth of organic production and consumption in Belgium since 2001. Another reason is certainly that a sufficient price premium can not be guaranteed to the producers.
The case study and the comparison with other initiatives makes clear that a similar initiative needs a bigger scale and/or a different strategy in order to have significant positive effects on sustainable rural development. The initiative has the potential to create positive economical, social and ecological effects, but therefore it either has to grow in order to lower the costs and to get a better negotiation position with processors or to invest in processing and marketing high value products.