French farmers call for pursuit of fuel blockades

Could protesting French farmers cause fuel shortages in France

French Farmers Plan to Blockade Total Refineries and Fuel Depots

The strikes have led to a further worsening of relations between the country's agricultural sector and President Emmanuel Macron's government.

Farmers in France have blocked access to several oil depots and refineries in protest - that is organized to last three days - against the proposed use of imported palm oil at a Total biofuel plant.

It said on Monday morning the blockade by farmers had not had an impact on operations. "We are disappointed given farmers' involvement", Christiane Lambert, head of the FNSEA which organised the protests, said after meeting with Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert. "Do not rush into oil stations, it is often that which creates the shortage". Environmentalists also blame palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.

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

Palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil as a feedstock for biodiesel.

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

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.

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. French farmers say its growing use has added to their competitive disadvantage because of high taxes and strict environmental regulations in France.

Small farmers in Malaysia, the world's second largest palm oil producer after Indonesia, said a move to cap palm oil exports at an European Union level would be discriminatory and a "betrayal".

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