French Farmers' Protest Against Palm Oil Imports Gaining Steam

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Trade unions and farmer groups in France are blocking today a total of 14 refineries and fuel tanks across the country in protest against government policy in the sector, which they consider "incoherent".

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. "We are disappointed given farmers' involvement", Christiane Lambert, head of the FNSEA which organised the protests, said after meeting with Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert.

It said on Monday morning the blockade by farmers had not had an impact on operations.

Travert noted that the government would not reconsider its decision to allow energy giant Total to import palm oil at a biofuel plant in La Mede, southeastern France where production was scheduled for this summer.

French farmers began a blockade of oil refineries and fuel depots on Sunday evening (10 June) over plans by Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant, which have fanned farmer discontent over unfair competition. "Do not rush into oil stations, it is often that which creates the shortage".

The move came after the French energy giant Total chose to use a cheaper, imported palm oil at its biofuel plant.

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

Total's decision was "the last straw", she said in an interview with Franceinfo television.

The mostly symbolic blockade at La Mede was lifted around midday with farmers returning to work, according to a Reuters photographer on site.

Palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil as a feedstock for biodiesel.

Junior ecology minister Sebastien Lecornu also confirmed France would propose a decision be taken at European Union level to cap and progressively cut palm oil imports, Lambert said.

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