French farmers halt refinery, depot blockades after overnight talks

Mindy Sparks
June 13, 2018

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.

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

Farmers in France have blocked access to several oil depots and refineries in protest - that is organized to last three days - against the proposed use of imported palm oil at a Total biofuel plant.

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 farmers launched blockades of the country's 14 refineries and hundreds of Total S.A. fuel depots since Sunday evening to protest imports of low cost palm oil for manufacturing biofuel, a move they denounce as unfair competition that jeopardizes their livelihood.


Total, which operates four of France's seven refineries, said the blockade was, however, hampering the distribution of products by road from four refineries and six depots.

The company stressed though that no more than 50 percent of raw material used at the facility would be imported palm oil, and that all suppliers were certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

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

Palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil as a feedstock for biodiesel fuel, and French farmers say its growing use has added to their longstanding competitive disadvantage because of high taxes and strict environmental regulations in France. Union president Lambert attributed them to continuous downwards pressure on prices, compounded by surging environmental and health norms.

"We're going to ask our members to suspend with immediate effect their blockade of the different sites", Jeremy Decerle, leader of the FNSEA's youth-wing, told reporters.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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