French minister says farmers' blockade of refineries, depots illegal: RTL radio

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The protests were triggered by France's decision to allow oil and gas major Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant, a cheaper alternative to biodiesel made from locally produced oilseed crops.

Farm Minister Stephane Travert said on Monday the farmers' blockades were illegal and the government would not rescind the decision to allow Total to use imported palm oil.

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

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

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The blockade now concerned a total of 18 refineries and depots across France, and would continue until the farm minister agreed to some of the farmers' demands, said the FNSEA, the country's largest farm union, which is organising the protests.

Talks lasted until around 0300 local time (0100 GMT).

The company has said that no more than 50 percent of raw material used at the facility will be imported palm oil, and that all suppliers will be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

The move is aimed at reducing the use of palm oil blamed for causing deforestation in southeast Asia, he said.

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

Palm oil has been widely criticised in Europe for environmental destruction and some lawmakers are pushing for a ban on its use in biofuel as part of new European Union energy targets.

Small farmers in Malaysia, the world's second largest palm oil producer after Indonesia, said a move to cap palm oil exports at an European Union level would be discriminatory and a "betrayal".

The strikes have led to a further worsening of relations between the country's agricultural sector and President Emmanuel Macron's government.

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