Total says 3.5 percent petrol stations dry to French farmers' blockade

French farmers block refineries fuel depots over palm oil imports

French farmers block refineries fuel depots over palm oil imports

French authorities last month gave Total permission to use palm oil as one of the feedstocks at its La Mede biofuel refinery in southern France, infuriating farmers who grow local oilseed crops such as rapeseed and environmentalists who blame palm oil cultivation for deforestation in south-east Asia.

French farmers have commenced a blockade of oil refineries and fuel depots over plans by Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant, which have fanned farmer discontent over unfair competition.

"France imports several products that don't respect the rules applied to French farmers".

The refinery protests in France also illustrate a souring relationship between farmers in the EU's biggest agricultural producer and the government of president Emmanuel Macron.

Public sector workers and railway staff have held regular demonstrations and strikes against the pro-business reforms introduced by the new centrist government since May 2017.

She called farmers to hold blockades until at least the morning.

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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.

The minister called on angry protesters to join talks to find "adequate solutions".

"I want Total and biofuel producers to reach an agreement on a base price and a contract that will benefit rapeseed producers", Travert said, adding there was no risk of a shortage of petrol due to the movement.

Total has invested 275 million euros ($324 million) to transform La Mede refinery into a plant that can make 500,000 tons of biodiesel per year.

Lambert told Franceinfo that the blockades were meant to pressure the French 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".

Besides a ban on palm oil imports, she wants the government to outlaw agriculture imports produced using fertilisers, herbicides and other products prohibited in the European Union as part of an agriculture law that will be debated in the Senate starting June 26.

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