French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots

Wednesday, 13 Jun, 2018

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.

Total committed to use less than 300,000 tonnes of crude palm oil per year at its La Mede biofuel refinery out of a total processing capacity of 650,000 tonnes, and to use 50,000 tonnes of locally grown rapeseed.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert on Monday denounced as "illegal" the farmers' blockades of oil refineries to oppose the government decision to allow Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant.

The protests are a sign of growing anger in France's farming communities which have so far not mobilised in large numbers against the government of President Emmanuel Macron since his election.

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.

No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total

Organisers say the farmers' blockades are aimed at pressuring the government into curbing palm oil use at La Mede and to address other grievances such as imports of South American meat.

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.

However, palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil as a feedstock for biodiesel due to European farmers suffering a competitive disadvantage because of high taxes and strict environmental regulations. But they were stunned when the EU Commission unveiled plans for the new EU budget from 2012-2017 that envisages cuts to the bloc's lavish farm subsidies.

"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".

The number of French farms decreased by 7 percent past year and their bankruptcies rose by the proportion in France as a whole despite economy growth, according to the national statistical institute INSEE.