France’s largest farmer’s union FNSEA has called for the country’s oil refineries to be blocked from 10 June in protest against the government allowing French oil and gas refiner Total to use palm oil to produce biodiesel at its new La Mede refinery.

“Across the country, farmers are going to block strategic sites that are symbols of the competition distortions that we endure,” a 31 May Reuters reported FNSEA as saying.

French farmers who grow crops such as rapeseed – which is also used for biodiesel production – were concerned that allowing cheaper palm oil imports to be used for biodiesel would result in unfair competition and work against biofuels’ environmental goals.

They were also worried that the ongoing trade talks between the EU and the South American Mercosur group would lead to an influx of cheaper agri imports.

Total said it would continue talks with the farmers and that it had decided to purchase 50,000 tonnes/year of French rapeseed oil for the 650,000 tonnes/year La Mede refinery, Reuters wrote on 1 June.

The launch of the plant was still expected to take place in early September despite FNSEA’s blockade calls, the company added.

The facility’s feedstock would comprise 60-70% vegetable oils, with a limit of 300,000 tonnes/year of palm oil and the rest coming from other plants, such as rapeseed, sunflower and corn.

The remaining 30-40% would come from animal fats, used cooking oil and residues from used palm oil.

The license for Total to use palm oil at its La Mede refinery came with a caveat that at least 25% of its feedstock would come from recycled oils.

Palm oil has been widely criticised across Europe for fueling deforestation in Southeast Asia and some lawmaker wanted to see palm oil-based fuels removed from the EU’s list of sustainable biofuels, Reuters wrote.