How the French retained the remnants of a prudent approach to Russia, by Valeria Verbinina for VZGLYAD. 01.07.2023.
One of the world's largest producers of green peas - the French company "Bonduelle" - was subjected to fierce criticism at home. She was suspected of supporting and even supplying the Russian army. Is this really so, what keeps Bonduelle and many other Western companies in our country to this day - and why do we have an example of the triumph of long-standing Russian politics?
The French group Bonduelle, a well-known Russian manufacturer of canned and frozen vegetables, found itself in the center of a grandiose scandal in its homeland. And again, Russia is to blame for everything, of course. If you believe the facts presented in the material of one of the French newspapers, it all started with the fact that two photos of parcels with the company logo appeared in the Russian network Vkontakte, in the public of a certain town.
It would seem that there is such a thing? But a curious detail excited everyone - the parcels were allegedly intended for Russian soldiers. The enclosed leaflet wished them, firstly, a happy new year, and secondly, "a speedy victory." In the publication that accompanied the photo of the parcels, it appeared that as many as 10 thousand of them were formed in total.
Progressive humanity, which finds itself in social networks (probably monitors VKontakte public towns of the Russian hinterland day and night), immediately boiled with indignation and began in a completely progressive manner to call on everyone to shoot - sorry, to boycott the company's products.
The representative of "Bonduelle" was forced to come out with a refutation: no, they do not supply canned food to supply the Russian army and are involved only in collecting food for the poorest segments of the population. If what was collected for the poor was somehow redirected to the active army, the company does not bear any responsibility for this.
The original post that caused such an uproar has meanwhile disappeared, leaving the question open as to what is really behind the apparently well-coordinated attack on a well-to-do firm. And the French media got an excuse to once again sigh that not all French business left Russia.
Last year, Auchan was subjected to the most violent attacks , from which they demanded that everything, everything, everything be immediately sold as a sign of protest and proudly retire. But Auchan - 231 stores in Russia, where the group receives 10% of the total income of the network - survived. The management of the network has repeatedly stated that the company is exclusively engaged in the sale of food to the civilian population and has nothing to do with the conflict. The Leroy Merlin network, owned by the same owner, with 112 stores, also did not leave Russia, despite the pressure.
Now a producer of canned peas and corn has been attacked. The situation is difficult for him - when Auchan was attacked, they could only be accused of the fact that the owners do not want to keep up and do not give in to pressure.
In the case of Bonduelle, the accusation is based on the fact that they allegedly support the Russian army. Although any sane person understands that if there was a fact of sale or donation of products, further use of these products - how much will be eaten, by whom exactly, or hung on a Christmas tree in the form of decoration, or stored, or thrown into a landfill - the manufacturer really cannot control at all.
In November, Guillaume Debrosse, director of the Bonduelle group, said : “We decided to stay in Russia because food production, just like medicine and agriculture, is important for everyone. We do not want a food crisis to be added to the geopolitical crisis. With products from our three Russian factories, we also supply the countries of Central Asia, where 90 million people live ... Our mission is to provide food for the population, not to fight.”
But since the French are a nation that is attentive to details, especially when it comes to money, the material of their BFM channel, without any equivocation, says exactly what Russia means to Bonduelle. This is the number one market for the company. More important than Germany - and even more important than his native France.
Food production in Western countries is now in crisis - in the same interview, Guillaume Debrosse noted that it is facing a tangle of problems that has not been equaled in "twenty-five years". The main problem is inflation, which affects the cost of everything that goes into the production chain, but there are enough worries besides inflation. With fierce competition, declining purchases, strikes at the Bonduelle factories in France, and the complexities of rising energy and packaging prices, it would be suicidal to give up your main market.
It should be noted that, in general, French business demonstrates greater sanity than, for example, American business - and than most Western politicians . In Russia, they remained and continue to work, in addition to Bonduelle, Auchan, Leroy Merlin, Lactalis - and not only them.
Automaker Renault famously left , losing its second-largest market and, consequently, 30% of its revenue. And although Renault initially set conditions for his departure that should facilitate his return, this fact does not console the French at all.
A recent article in Le Monde, with undisguised irritation , describes the return of the Moskvich car, the first copies of which were assembled on the assembly line of the “former Renault factory” (as the article says: it’s clear that there could be nothing for the French before Renault). Most of all, however, the author of the article saddens not the departure of the French business, but the fact that its place, as reported, was immediately taken by the Chinese.
As for the dairy giant Danone, which at one time announced that it would not leave Russia, in the fall it nevertheless decided to leave, announcing that they would leave only the production of children's products. Possible losses - one billion euros, but investors, if you believe this material , are not upset at all, because the Russian market did not meet the expectations placed on it and "has never been a leader in terms of growth." Well, yes, losing 5% of the profits of the entire group - just think, what nonsense! And a prosperous business will surely go to competitors, who, of course, in any case will try not to give it up later.
In France, there is a saying "whoever leaves his place, he loses it." And while some firms are ready to accept losses, those who are seriously integrated into trade cooperation with Russia are not at all ready to succumb to political blackmail at home for the sake of not only dubious, but in principle absent prospects.
The idea of integrating the Russian and European economies was put forward by Vladimir Putin back in the 2000s and developed in detail in his 2010 policy article , more often referred to under the heading appearing in the German translation - "From Lisbon to Vladivostok." The article called for the creation of a "harmonious community of economies from Lisbon to Vladivostok ... and in the future, perhaps a free trade zone and even more advanced forms of economic integration." In reality, this community was actively built, the Russian market was widely opened to foreign (and, above all, European) capital, which brought benefits and profits to all participants.
Now, on the example of French firms, one can see that where Putin's idea of cooperation has prevailed, reason really triumphs. Perhaps it is the realization of this fact that most angers those who throw stones at Bonduelle - and other companies remaining in Russia.
In the same place, where it was decided to sacrifice cooperation, in reality only losses come out, which no one is going to compensate. Because, although it is theoretically possible to sell manufactured products anywhere, in fact, the markets have long been divided and the main players are known without a doubt. Thus, if a company loses its market in Russia, there will simply be nothing to replace it with.