French farmers block access to 13 refineries in palm oil biofuels protest
13 June, 2018, 17:27 | Author: Darnell Taylor
According to the president of the National Federation of Agricultural Holders' Unions, Christiane Lambert, 13 sites will be blocked early Monday following five that were blocked on Sunday. Environmentalists also blame palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.
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.
Total's 253,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Gonfreville refinery and nearby oil depot, its 109,000 bpd Feyzin refinery, the 220,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Donges refinery and 102,000 bpd Grandpuits refinery were among those blocked by farmers.
French rapeseed and sunflower growers, who say they will lose out due to Total's imports, accuse foreign palm oil producers of failing to respect the regulatory requirements European producers must follow.
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.
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Organisers say the farmers' blockades are aimed at pressuring the government into curbing palm oil use at La Mede and to address other grievances such as imports of South American meat. Recently, it has invested €275 million ($324 million) to transform a refinery at La Mede, in southern France, into a plant that can make 500,000 tons of biodiesel per year.
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.
Many farmers welcomed the president's call for fairer farmgate prices as part of a food chain review previous year.
The number of French farms decreased by 7 percent past year and their bankruptcies rose by the proportion in France as a whole despite economy growth, according to the national statistical institute INSEE.
"This blockade can not be the solution", the minister told RTL radio, adding that "this blockade is illegal".
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