French farmers call for pursuit of fuel blockades

Cristina Cross
June 13, 2018

France's biggest agriculture union on Wednesday told its farmers to suspend a blockade of refineries and fuel depots that had entered its third day over palm oil imports and unfair competition, a union official said.

The logo of French oil giant Total on a flag at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie near Paris, France.

The firm, which operates five of France's seven refineries, nine depots, and 2,200 petrol stations, said the depots and four refineries were still blocked.

Farm Minister Stephane Travert pushed back against the farmers, stating that the blockades were illegal and will be futile as the government's decision to allow Total's importation of palm oil will remain in effect.

Organisers say the farmers' blockades are 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.

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

No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total
French farmers start refinery blockade over palm oil imports

Responding to a call by the National Federation of Agricultural Producers Unions and Young Farmers, the workers began yesterday the actions they will carry out for at least three days, and could be extended throughout the week.

The mostly symbolic blockade at La Mede was lifted around midday with farmers returning to work, according to a Reuters photographer on site.

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

While the European Parliament has made a decision to ban palm oil imports by 2021, France recently gave the go-ahead for a biorefinery owned by Total, a move that prompted many critics. French farmers say its growing use has added to their competitive disadvantage because of high taxes and strict environmental regulations in France.

"We will commit at European Union level to cap, to freeze. based on the total 2017 volumes, the volume of imported (palm) oil to reduce it gradually in the coming years", French junior ecology minister Sebastien Lecornu said on Europe 1 radio.

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