French farmers block refineries, fuel depots

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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".

Environmentalists have blamed palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.

Dozens of French farmers blocked access to 13 refineries across the country on Monday to protest plans to import palm oil for use in biofuels, a move they denounce as unfair competition which jeopardises their livelihood. But the refinery protests illustrate a souring relationship between farmers in the EU's biggest agricultural producer and the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

The organisers say the blockade, which is scheduled to run for three days initially, is aimed at putting pressure on the government to curb the use of palm oil at La Mede, and to address other grievances such as imports of South American meat.

Trade unions and farmer groups in France are blocking today a total of 14 refineries and fuel tanks across the country in protest against government policy in the sector, which they consider "incoherent". It said on Monday morning the blockade by farmers had not had an impact on operations.

No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total
French farmers start refinery blockade over palm oil imports

"We're going to ask our members to suspend with immediate effect their blockade of the different sites", Jeremy Decerle, leader of the FNSEA's youth-wing, told reporters.

However, palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil as a feedstock for biodiesel due to European farmers suffering a competitive disadvantage because of high taxes and strict environmental regulations.

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.

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.

Total's decision was "the last straw", she said in an interview with Franceinfo television.

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