French farmers plan fuel blockade in palm oil row

The oil refinery at Donges, Loire-Atlantique
The oil refinery at Donges, Loire-Atlantique, was blockaded this morning

A total 13 oil refineries and fuel depots targeted as farmers protest against continued palm oil imports for use in biofuels

Farmers are planning a four-day blockade of 13 oil refineries and fuel depots across France in protest at the import of palm oil for use in fuel.

They say they will block sites at Donges (Loire-Atlantique), Gonfreville l'Orcher (Seine-Maritime), Dunkerque (Nord), Coignières (Yvelines), Gennevilliers (Hauts-de-Seine), Grandpuits (Seine-et-Marne), Vatry (Marne), Strasbourg, Cournon (Puy-de-Dôme), Lyon and Feyzin (Rhône), La Mède (Bouches-du-Rhône) and Toulouse.

The blockade will run from June 10 to June 13.

The FNSEA and Young Farmers are staging the protest over what they describe as the government's "contradictions" over standards demanded of farmers in France that are not maintained for the importation of raw materials.

They see the import of palm oil as 'unfair competition' to more expensive oils from rapeseed and sunflower production in France. "The French oil and protein industry has the capacity to meet the needs of oil groups," a union delegate said.

As well as being found in a number of food products, palm oil is used as an additive in biofuels, which are widely promoted within the EU as more environmentally friendly than fossel fuels.

In May, France gave the go-ahead for a biorefinery owned by Total despite the EU Parliament voting to ban palm oil imports by 2021. It has been agreed that the refinery would use up to 300,000 tonnes of palm oil per year: 10% of total palm oil consumption in Europe for biofuels in 2016.

Last year, Environment Minister Nicholas Hulot said France would take steps to restrict the use of palm oil in producing biofuels in order to reduce deforestation in countries of origin, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. At the time he did not go into detail, but said he wanted to stop “imported deforestation” in France, citing unsustainable soybean and palm oil production.

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