French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots

View of the entrance at the Total refinery in La Mede France 23 February 2010

They have joined environmentalists in their call to ban palm oil cultivation as it would lead to deforestation in southeast Asia, where most of the world's palm oil is being produced.

France's farm minister said on Monday that a decision by farmers to launch a blockade of oil refineries and fuel depots to protest a government decision to allow Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant was illegal.

French farmers, members of the FNSEA, the country's largest farmers' union, block with their tractors the access of the French oil giant Total refinery in Donges, France, June 11, 2018.

Lambert said 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".

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.

Junior ecology minister Sebastien Lecornu also confirmed France would propose a decision be taken at European Union level to cap and progressively cut palm oil imports, Lambert said.

French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots
French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots

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.

"Our target is the state", FNSEA's Lambert said, adding Total's decision on palm oil was "the last straw".

Fuel shortages were not expected as a result of the blockade, given France's network of emergency fuel reserves and in the absence to date of sympathy action by fuel sector workers. French farmers say its growing use has added to their competitive disadvantage because of high taxes and strict environmental regulations in France.

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.

Contrastingly, Malaysian officials have warned of possible trade repercussions that could affect a French fighter jet deal.

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