French farmers halt oil refinery blockades

Published: June 13, 2018 15:49:32 | Updated: June 16, 2018 12:13:17

French farmers, members of the FNSEA, the country’s largest farmers’ union, spread cherries on the road as they block the Total biodiesel refinery at La Mede near Fos-sur-Mer, France June 11, 2018. Reuters.

France’s biggest agriculture union on Wednesday told its farmers to halt a blockade of refineries and fuel depots that had entered its third day on Wednesday over palm oil imports an unfair competition, a FNSEA official said.

The protests were triggered by France’s decision to allow oil and gas major Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant, a cheaper alternative to biodiesel made from locally produced oilseed crops.

“We have made breakthroughs and many meetings are lined up for today. We’re going to ask our members to suspend with immediate effect their blockade of the different sites,” Jeremy Decerle, leader of the FNSEA’s youth-wing, told reporters.

The palm oil authorisation has soured already-fragile relations between the European Union’s biggest farm sector and the government of President Emmanuel Macron, reports Reuters.

Decerle was flanked by FNSEA chief Christiane Lambert who earlier that there had been breakthroughs on some points but “not on others” during an overnight meeting with Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert.

“The minister recognised there are competitive distortions within Europe and with other countries,” Lambert told France 2 television, following talks with Travert that lasted until 0300 local time (0100 GMT).

Southeast Asia is a leading producer of palm oil.

Unions want strong assurances that France “would make its voice heard more loudly in Brussels with a message to be ‘careful with abusive imports that create problems for European agriculture’,” Lambert added.

Lambert had earlier called farmers to maintain their blockades until at least the morning.

Total said on Tuesday that 3.5 percent of its petrol stations in France had run out of fuel on the second day of the blockade disrupted distribution.

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