French Farmers Engage In Refinery Blockade Over Palm Oil Imports

French farmers block refineries fuel depots over palm oil imports

French farmers block refineries fuel depots over palm oil imports

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.

At least five sites will be blocked on Sunday evening, with a total of 13 sites blocked from 9 am Monday, Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA farmers union told France Info television in an interview. The companies, on the other hand, have urged people to not panic-buy gas as it would result in shortages.

"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. "It concerns South American meat and Spanish wine as well as palm oil", said Damien Greffon, who leads the FRSEA farmers' union in the Paris region.

Environmentalists have blamed palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia. But the refinery protests illustrate a souring relationship between farmers in the EU's biggest agricultural producer and the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

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.

Hulot had said past year France would take steps to restrict the use of palm oil in producing biofuels in order to reduce deforestation in the countries of origin, without detailing the measures.

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.

Total argues its plans call for using less palm oil than allowed by the authorities, offer an outlet for local rapeseed and will develop large-scale recycling of used oil and fat.

Many farmers welcomed the president's call for fairer farmgate prices as part of a food chain review a year ago.