France to put freeze on palm oil use, imports

No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total

Christiane Lambert, president of farmers' union FNSEA, said the blockades were meant to pressure the government over recent trade agreements that would allow imports of meat, sugar, and ethanol from countries "that do not respect the same conditions of production as French products".

Energy giant Total wants to import up to 300,000 tons a year of palm oil, which environmental advocates say has caused massive deforestation chiefly in southeast Asia.

Paris - French farmers will start a blockade of oil refineries and fuel depots on Sunday evening in protest at plans by Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel facility, a move that has fanned farmer discontent over unfair competition.

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 President Emmanuel Macron.

The move came after the French energy giant Total made a decision to use a cheaper, imported palm oil at its biofuel plant.

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

Fuel shortages were not expected as a result of the blockade, given France's network of emergency fuel reserves and in the absence to date of sympathy action by fuel sector workers.

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

Last month, authorities gave Total permission to use palm oil as a feedstock. 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. 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 to the discussion that we are going to have".

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