French Farmers Block Refineries across the Country

View of the entrance at the Total refinery in La Mede France 23 February 2010

View of the entrance at the Total refinery in La Mede France 23 February 2010

Paris - French farmers will start a blockade of oil refineries and fuel depots on Sunday evening in protest at plans by Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel facility, a move that has fanned farmer discontent over unfair competition.

Reuters quoted France's Total as saying that personnel from the oil and gas company had access to four refineries in France and a blockade of the sites by farmers had not had an impact on operations.

A total of 13 sites were blocked from 9 a.m. Monday, Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA said in an interview with France Info television.

The FNSEA had called for the blockades to be maintained early on Wednesday after the talks ended, saying they "did not get enough".

"France over-regulates", she said, adding: "We are told to raise quality and standards and to do organic and use fewer chemicals, but the prices are not there". This blockade is illegal.

French Farmers Block Refineries across the Country

"We will commit at European Union level to cap, to freeze... based on the total 2017 volumes, the volume of imported (palm) oil to reduce it gradually in the coming years", said the minister, Sebastien Lecornu, on Europe 1 radio.

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. "It is not by blocking refineries that we are going to find adequate solutions", Travert told French RTL radio. The farmers are strongly opposed to the importation of the product which, they say, will likely cut into the profits of locally produced rapeseed oil.

Hulot had said a year ago 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.

French authorities last month gave Total permission to use palm oil as a feedstock at its La Mede biofuel refinery in southern France, infuriating farmers who grow crops such as rapeseed.

The issue has caused friction with Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's 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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