No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total

French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots

Agriculture Minister, Stephane Travert, said today that the occupation of refineries and deposits is illegal, and ruled out that this will cause a shortage of fuel in the country.

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.

She called farmers to hold blockades until at least the morning.

A total of 16 sites were blocked on Monday afternoon, France's largest farm union FNSEA (National Federation of Agricultural Holders' Unions) said on Twitter. "Do not rush into oil stations, it is often that which creates the shortage".

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.

Separately, junior minister Brune Poirson, who reports to environment minister Nicolas Hulot, said on Twitter that "France wants to stop the rise in use from one year to the other" for both palm oil and soybean oil.

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Environmentalists have blamed palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.

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.

While the European Parliament has chose to ban palm oil imports by 2021, France recently gave the go-ahead for a biorefinery owned by Total, a move that prompted many critics.

Hulot had said past year France would take steps to restrict the use of palm oil in producing biofuels in order to reduce deforestation in the countries of origin, without detailing the measures. French farmers say its growing use has added to their competitive disadvantage because of high taxes and strict environmental regulations in France.

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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