French vegetable oil and biodiesel company Groupe Avril has temporarily closed some of its production as demand drops due to the COVID-19 pandemic, biofuels-news.com reported on 22 April.

Chief executive Jean-Philippe Puig said out of the firm’s six plants, three were now in operation.

The company has plants in Bassens, Sète, Lezoux and Le Mériot, and two in Rouen.

A decrease of 60% in diesel-powered vehicles on the road had slashed demand for biodiesel blending, according to Puig.

The fall in the price of biodiesel had been steep, biofuels-news.com reported, but this had not been matched by a corresponding fall in the price of rapeseed oil, which made biodiesel production uneconomic.

“The prices are catastrophic and are at a level where we should stop everything. We have had prices drop below zero,” added Puig.

The chief executive also said that biodiesel orders for April into May had also fallen.

Groupe Avril is also a major rapeseed crusher and vegetable oil producer, but its volumes of rapeseed oil destined for production of biodiesel were now spare.

“We are trying to find outlets to export the oil,” added Puig.