Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
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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 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.

French authorities last month gave Total permission to use palm oil as one of the feedstocks at its La Mede biofuel refinery in southern France, infuriating farmers who grow local oilseed crops such as rapeseed and environmentalists who blame palm oil cultivation for deforestation in south-east Asia.

French farmers have blocked access to oil depots and refineries with tonnes of onions, wood and rubble, as part of a three-day protest over plans to allow Total TOTF.PA to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant.

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.

French oil and gas company Total, which operates five refineries and nine petrol depots in France, said late on Sunday that farmers have gathered at two depots but it had taken measures together with authorities to limit disruptions.

No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total

Total has invested 275 million euros ($324 million) to transform La Mede refinery into a plant that can make 500,000 tons of biodiesel per year.

Many farmers welcomed the president's call for fairer farmgate prices as part of a food chain review previous year. "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. But FNSEA has estimated that farmers would stand to lose about €5 billion over the next European Union legislature if the cuts were confirmed, aggravating a loss of competitiveness and growing fear in the rural sector.

"This blockade can not be the solution to the discussion that we are going to have".

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

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