Farmers block oil refineries and depots across France

Farmers block oil refineries and depots across France

Farmers block oil refineries and depots across France

Lambert, who said unions wanted assurances that France would defend its farmers' interests more robustly in Brussels, signalled protests could resume if talks with the government did not yield enough. "We are disappointed given farmers' involvement", Christiane Lambert, head of the FNSEA which organised the protests, said after meeting with Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert.

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

Farmers are protesting government decisions such as authorizing the company of the energy sector Total to import palm oil from Asia to exploit a bio-refinery, which they consider an unfair competition with the French biodiesel industry.

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The organisers say the blockade, which is slated to run for three days initially, is 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.

Total's initiative to import palm oil for its biofuel plant was just "the last straw", the representative added.

All in all, 16 sites were blocked on Monday, according to France's largest farm union FNSEA. Palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil.

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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.

"I want Total and biofuel producers to reach an agreement on a base price and a contract that will benefit rapeseed producers", Travert said, adding there was no risk of a shortage of petrol due to the movement.

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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