Friday, 22 June, 2018

French farmers suspend fuel blockades after government gesture

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Sandra Phillips | 13 June, 2018, 20:26

"This blockade can not be the solution", the minister told RTL radio, adding that "this blockade is illegal".

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.

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.

"We're not against imports. but for consumers, we want the government to be consistent and apply the same rules to imports, otherwise French agriculture will disappear", said Samuel Vandaele of the Young Farmers' union outside a Total refinery southeast of Paris. "It is not by blocking refineries that we are going to find adequate solutions", Travert told French RTL radio.

Total's 253,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Gonfreville refinery and nearby oil depot, its 109,000 bpd Feyzin refinery, the 220,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Donges refinery and 102,000 bpd Grandpuits refinery were among those blocked by farmers.

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It urged clients not to rush to petrol stations to fill their tanks, which could spark panic buying and shortages.

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.

According to the farmers, these measures show the "government incoherence", which encourages the union to improve its performance while approving worldwide trade agreements that provoke a distortion of competition. Palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil.

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

Indonesia and Malaysia are the two largest producers of palm oil.

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