PARIS: Dozens of French farmers blocked access to 13 refineries across the country today to protest against plans to import palm oil for use in biofuels, a move they denounce as unfair competition which jeopardises their livelihood.
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.
French rapeseed and sunflower growers, who say they will lose out due to Total's imports, accuse foreign palm oil producers of failing to respect the regulatory requirements European producers must follow.
Farmers parked tractors in front of refinery gates while dumping piles of haystacks, dirt, manure and potatoes.
"France imports several products that don't respect the rules applied to French farmers. It concerns South American meat and Spanish wine as well as palm oil," said Damien Greffon, who leads the FRSEA farmers' union in the Paris region.
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.
Public sector workers and railway staff have held regular demonstrations and strikes against the pro-business reforms introduced by the new centrist government since May 2017.
The farmers' protests began late Sunday and have been called for three days because "dialogue has broken down" with the government, Greffon said.