Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

French minister says farmers' blockade of refineries, depots illegal -RTL radio

French minister says farmers' blockade of refineries, depots illegal -RTL radio

On Monday, a total of 13 sites were being picketed by members of the French farmers' union FNSEA, union boss Christiane Lambert said in an interview with France Info television.

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.

French farmers blocked access to oil depots and refineries using tonnes of onions, wood and rubble as part of a three-day protest against plans to allow Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant.

The protests are a sign of growing anger in France's farming communities which have so far not mobilised in large numbers against the government of President Emmanuel Macron since his election. Many farmers welcome the president's call for fairer farmgate prices as part of a food chain review a year ago, but they have been irked by Macron's attempt to phase out common weedkiller glyphosate before other European Union countries.

France's main farm union called early on Wednesday for protestors to continue a blockade of refineries and fuel depots after the government failed to ease their concerns. It said on Monday morning the blockade by farmers had not had an impact on operations.

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.

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

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

"Our target is the state", Ms Lambert said, adding that 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.

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

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

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