Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

French farmers to stage refinery blockade to protest palm oil imports

French farmers to stage refinery blockade to protest palm oil imports

Christiane Lambert, president of farmers' union FNSEA, said the blockades were meant to pressure the government over recent trade agreements that would allow imports of meat, sugar, and ethanol from countries "that do not respect the same conditions of production as French products".

Oil and gas major Total said on Tuesday that 3.5 percent of its petrol stations in France had run out of fuel on the second day of a blockade of refineries and fuel depots by farmers that has disrupted distribution.

The French farmers' blockades at oil refineries to oppose the government approval of Total's use of imported palm oil at a biofuel plant was "illegal", said Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert.

The farmers' unions warned the three days action could be extended.

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According to the president of the National Federation of Agricultural Holders' Unions, Christiane Lambert, 13 sites will be blocked early Monday following five that were blocked on Sunday.

"I want Total and biofuel producers to reach an agreement on a base price and a contract that will benefit rapeseed producers", Travert told RTL radio.

The move is aimed at reducing the use of palm oil blamed for causing deforestation in southeast Asia, he said.

Total's chief executive Patrick Pouyanne has pledged to buy 50,000 tons of French rapeseed, also known as canola oil, as part of the 650,000 tons of oil which will be used each year at the La Mede refinery outside the southern city of Marseille.

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Total's decision was "the last straw", she said in an interview with Franceinfo television.

The Vatry fuel depot in the Marne region of northeastern France was the first to be blocked on Sunday evening as about 100 farmers set up barricades with tractors and mounds of rubble, a spokesman from the FNSEA farmers union told Reuters. Some European lawmakers are pushing for a ban on palm oil use in biofuel, citing its effect on the environment.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the two largest producers of palm oil.

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