French farmers start refinery blockade over palm oil imports

13 June, 2018, 20:31 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots

The strikes have led to a further worsening of relations between the country's agricultural sector and President Emmanuel Macron's government.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said Monday that the government would not back down, adding that he would meet soon with unions as well as biofuels producers to discuss supplies and pricing.

French oil and gas major Total TOTF.PA said on Tuesday that 3.5 percent of its petrol stations in France were out of fuel on the second-day of a blockade of refineries and fuel depots by farmers that has disrupted distribution.

Many farmers welcome the president's call for fairer farmgate prices as part of a food chain review a year ago, but they have been angered by Macron's attempt to phase out common weedkiller glyphosate before other European Union countries.

Christiane Lambert, President of France's farmer's union group FNSEA, walks past tractors during a protest by French farmers to block the French oil giant Total refinery in Donges, France, June 11, 2018.

The organisers say the blockade, which is slated to run for three days initially, is aimed at pressuring the government into curbing palm oil use at La Mede and to address other grievances such as imports of South American meat.

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Environmentalists have blamed palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.

Total's initiative to import palm oil for its biofuel plant was just "the last straw", the representative added.

Widespread fuel shortages were not expected, however, given France's network of seven refineries, 200 fuel depots, emergency fuel reserves, and the absence of sympathy action by fuel sector workers.

Separately, junior minister Brune Poirson, who reports to environment minister Nicolas Hulot, said on Twitter that "France wants to stop the rise in use from one year to the other" for both palm oil and soybean oil.

Farmers fear that the move could negatively affect the use of locally produced oilseed crops.

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