Sofiprotéol-Avril managed to build an agribusiness empire thanks to massive subsidies for biofuels. Now, with biofuels on the back foot – linked to food price hikes, climate change and land-grabbing – Sofiprotéol-Avril is lobbying hard to protect its interests.
From food to animal nutrition, from seeds to renewable energy, from agricultural media to finance, Sofiprotéol-Avril is everywhere. Although not in the public eye, the company has expanded into an agricultural empire with a 7 billion euro annual turnover. It is the financial arm of French agribusiness and holds considerable political leverage in the country, since Xavier Beulin, Sofiprotéol-Avril’s boss, is also the president of FNSEA, the strongest agricultural union in France, closely aligned with the interests of big farmers and agribusiness.
Biofuels are at the heart of Sofiprotéol-Avril’s empire, illustrating a shift away from actual farming and food production, towards industrial-scale agricultural operations, heavy on technological manipulation, that have little to do with the interests of communities and small farmers. Sofiprotéol-Avril invested early in the biofuels sector, and turned it into a source of considerable profits. Its biodiesel, diester, is produced with rapeseed and sunflower oil. Public subsidies and favourable policies introduced in the context of growing awareness about the climate crisis (particularly the obligation to mix a minimal proportion of biodiesel into all the diesel fuel sold in France) proved a financial bonanza, and allowed Sofiprotéol-Avril to bankroll the continuous expansion of its portfolio and of its grip in the French agricultural sector.