French farmers block refineries, fuel depots over palm oil imports


French farmers block refineries, fuel depots over palm oil imports

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.

Farmers are concerned about the impact on locally produced oilseed crops, further souring relations between the EU's biggest agricultural sector and the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

Christiane Lambert, President of France's farmer's union group FNSEA, walks past tractors during a protest by French farmers to block the French oil giant Total refinery in Donges, France, June 11, 2018.

The farmers' protests began late Sunday and have been called for three days because "dialogue has broken down" with the government, Greffon said.

The blockage was described as "illegal" by French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert.

On Sunday evening, French farmers launched blockades of the country's 14 refineries to protest imports of low cost palm oil for manufacturing biofuel. Environmentalists also blame palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.

"I want Total and biofuel producers to reach an agreement on a base price and a contract that will benefit rapeseed producers", Travert said, adding there was no risk of a shortage of petrol due to the movement.

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

According to the farmers, these measures show the "government incoherence", which encourages the union to improve its performance while approving global trade agreements that provoke a distortion of competition.

Besides a ban on palm oil imports, she wants the government to outlaw agriculture imports produced using fertilisers, herbicides and other products prohibited in the European Union as part of an agriculture law that will be debated in the Senate starting June 26.

Widespread fuel shortages were not expected, however, given France's network of seven refineries, 200 fuel depots, emergency fuel reserves, and the absence of sympathy action by fuel sector workers.

The issue of palm oil use has caused friction with Indonesia and Malaysia, the two largest palm oil producers, with Malaysian officials warning of trade repercussions that could affect a potential deal to buy French fighter jets.