No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total

James Marshall
June 13, 2018

At least five sites were to be blocked on Sunday, with a total of 13 sites disrupted from 9am Monday, Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA said in an interview with France Info television.

French farmers have blocked access to oil depots and refineries with tonnes of onions, wood and rubble, as part of a three-day protest over plans to allow Total TOTF.PA to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant.

The protests are a sign of growing anger in France's farming communities which have so far not mobilised in large numbers against the government of President Emmanuel Macron since his election.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said Monday that the government would not back down, adding that he would meet soon with unions as well as biofuels producers to discuss supplies and pricing.

France's main farm union called early on Wednesday for protestors to continue a blockade of refineries and fuel depots after the government failed to ease their concerns.

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.

Last month, authorities gave Total permission to use palm oil as a feedstock.

Total's chief executive Patrick Pouyanne has pledged to buy 50,000 tons of French rapeseed, also known as canola oil, as part of the 650,000 tons of oil which will be used each year at the La Mede refinery outside the southern city of Marseille.

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. But they were stunned when the EU Commission unveiled plans for the new EU budget from 2012-2017 that envisages cuts to the bloc's lavish farm subsidies. But FNSEA has estimated that farmers would stand to lose about €5 billion over the next European Union legislature if the cuts were confirmed, aggravating a loss of competitiveness and growing fear in the rural sector. Union president Lambert attributed them to continuous downwards pressure on prices, compounded by surging environmental and health norms.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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