French farmers picket Total refineries in palm oil protests

French farmers picket Total refineries in palm oil protests

Christiane Lambert, President of France's farmer's union group FNSEA, talks to journalists as she stands on a tractor during a protest by French farmers to block the French oil giant Total refinery in Donges, France, June 11, 2018.

The move is aimed at reducing the use of palm oil blamed for causing deforestation in southeast Asia, he said.

France's biggest agriculture union on Wednesday told its farmers to suspend a blockade of refineries and fuel depots that had entered its third day over palm oil imports and unfair competition, a union official said.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said Monday that the government would not back down, adding that he would meet soon with unions as well as biofuels producers to discuss supplies and pricing.

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

On Sunday evening, French farmers launched blockades of the country's 14 refineries to protest imports of low cost palm oil for manufacturing biofuel.

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.

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

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

Hulot had said previous year France would take steps to restrict the use of palm oil in producing biofuels in order to reduce deforestation in the countries of origin, without detailing the measures.

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 has been widely criticised in Europe for environmental destruction and some lawmakers are pushing for a ban on its use in biofuel as part of new European Union energy targets.

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