French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots

French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots

French junior ecology minister said on June 11, as farmers blocked refineries across the country in protest against use of the vegetable oil in biofuels, that France will commit at European Union level to freeze the use of palm oil.

On Sunday evening, French farmers launched blockades of the country's 14 refineries to protest imports of low cost palm oil for manufacturing biofuel.

It said on Monday morning the blockade by farmers had not had an impact on operations.

Christiane Lambert, president of farmers' union FNSEA, said the blockades were meant to pressure the 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". The companies, on the other hand, have urged people to not panic-buy gas as it would result in shortages.

Energy giant Total wants to import up to 300,000 tons a year of palm oil, which environmental advocates say has caused massive deforestation chiefly in southeast Asia.

"In South America the average cattle ranch has 24,000 cows, while in France we have on average just 80 - and yet we're always being told to be more environmentally friendly", said Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA farmers' union, France's biggest.

More news: Nadal beats del Potro at French Open, eyes 11th title

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

Palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil as a feedstock for biodiesel.

Fuel shortages were not expected as a result of the blockade, given France's network of emergency fuel reserves and in the absence of sympathy action by fuel sector workers.

While the European Parliament has chose 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.

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.

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