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French farmers block refineries, fuel depots over palm oil imports

Reuters  |  PARIS 

By and de La Hamaide

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

Farmers are concerned about the impact on locally produced oilseed crops, further souring relations between the EU's biggest agricultural sector and the government of

Many welcomed Macron's call for fairer prices for farmers as part of a food chain review last year, but they have been angered by the government's attempt to phase out weedkiller glyphosate before other EU countries.

said on Monday the farmers' blockades were illegal and the government would not rescind the decision to allow Total to use imported

A total of 16 sites were blocked on Monday afternoon, France's largest farm union FNSEA (of Agricultural Holders' Unions) said on

Total's 253,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) and nearby oil depot, its 109,000 bpd Feyzin refinery, the 220,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) and 102,000 bpd were among those blocked by farmers.

The operates five refineries and nine petrol depots in It said on Monday morning the blockade by farmers had not had an impact on operations.

It urged clients not to rush to petrol stations to fill their tanks, which could spark panic buying and shortages.

French authorities last month gave Total permission to use as a feedstock at its La Mede biofuel refinery in southern France, infuriating farmers who grow crops such as rapeseed. Environmentalists also blame for deforestation in

The mostly symbolic blockade at La Mede was lifted around midday with farmers returning to work, according to a on site.

Organisers say the farmers' blockades are aimed at pressuring the government into curbing at La Mede and to address other grievances such as imports of South American meat.

"Our target is the state," FNSEA's Lambert said, adding Total's decision on palm oil was "the last straw".

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.

Palm oil is cheaper than as a feedstock for biodiesel. French farmers say its growing use has added to their competitive disadvantage because of high taxes and strict environmental regulations in

Total argues its plans call for using than allowed by the authorities, offer an outlet for local rapeseed and will develop large-scale recycling of used oil and fat.

Palm oil has been criticised in for environmental destruction and some lawmakers are pushing for a ban on its use in biofuel as part of new

has said it would oppose a full EU ban but said on Monday wanted to cap and progressively cut

The issue of has caused friction with and Malaysia, the two largest palm oil producers, with Malaysian officials warning of trade repercussions that could affect a potential deal to buy French fighter jets.

(Reporting by Bate Felix, Gus Trompiz, de La Hamaide, Jean-Paul Pelissier, and Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Chris Reese, and Mark Potter)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, June 11 2018. 20:27 IST