PARIS, FRANCE — Three of France’s largest agricultural groups have formed a grain export joint venture to improve their competitiveness in overseas markets increasingly dominated by Black Sea producers like Russia and Ukraine, Reuters reported on July 11.

Cooperative groups InVivo, Axereal and NatUp said they have established the Grains Overseas unit with the aim of shipping 4 million tonnes of soft wheat and feed barley per year outside the European Union.

The unit, in which InVivo will own 60% and Axereal and NatUp 20% each, will notably involve joint grain procurement and the sharing of storage silos at ports and on river routes, the companies said.

The joint venture, effective from July, aims to handle 2.4 million tonnes in its first marketing season before reaching the 4 million level within two or three years, Thierry Blandinieres, chief executive of InVivo, told Reuters.

Grain procurement would be done through InVivo’s InGrains platform, developed two years ago to attract more competitive grain offers, he said.

“We want to achieve the volumes with good profitability,” Blandinieres told Reuters. “We’re giving ourselves two years to succeed and to demonstrate the resilience of this model.”

InVivo, one of France’s largest grain exporters, has sharply reduced volumes in an attempt to curb trading losses, compared with 7 million to 8 million tonnes handled a few years ago.

InVivo is a grouping of some 200 farmer-owned cooperatives. Axereal, based in central France, is one of the country’s largest cooperatives and a member of the InVivo network.

NatUp is based in northern France and owns a grain silo at Rouen, France’s biggest grain port.