Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

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

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

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 French farmers' blockades at oil refineries to oppose the government approval of Total's use of imported palm oil at a biofuel plant was "illegal", said Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert.

The refinery protests in France also illustrate a souring relationship between farmers in the EU's biggest agricultural producer and the government of president Emmanuel Macron.

The protests that hit 18 sites in France were triggered by France's decision to allow oil and gas major Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant, a cheaper alternative to biodiesel made from locally produced oilseed crops.

Many farmers welcomed the president's call for fairer farmgate prices as part of a food chain review past year.

French farmers launched blockades of the country's 14 refineries and hundreds of Total S.A. fuel depots since Sunday evening to protest imports of low cost palm oil for manufacturing biofuel, a move they denounce as unfair competition that jeopardizes their livelihood.

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She called farmers to hold blockades until at least the morning.

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.

Lambert told Franceinfo that the blockades were meant to pressure the French 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". "It concerns South American meat and Spanish wine as well as palm oil", said Damien Greffon, who leads the FRSEA farmers' union in the Paris region.

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

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.

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