Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert on Monday denounced as "illegal" the farmers' blockades of oil refineries to oppose the government decision to allow Total to use imported palm oil at a biofuel plant.
The refinery protests in France also illustrate a souring relationship between farmers in the EU's biggest agricultural producer and the government of president Emmanuel Macron.
Travert noted that the government would not reconsider its decision to allow energy giant Total to import palm oil at a biofuel plant in La Mede, southeastern France where production was scheduled for this summer.
On Monday, a total of 13 sites were being picketed by members of the French farmers' union FNSEA, union boss Christiane Lambert said in an interview with France Info television.
Oil and gas major Total said on Tuesday that 3.5 per cent of its petrol stations in France had run out of fuel on the second day of the blockade disrupted distribution.
Environmentalists have blamed palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia. Many farmers welcome the president's call for fairer farmgate prices as part of a food chain review past year, but they have been irked by Macron's attempt to phase out common weedkiller glyphosate before other European Union countries. "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.
Widespread fuel shortages were not expected, however, given France's network of seven refineries, 200 fuel depots, emergency fuel reserves, and the absence of sympathy action by fuel sector workers.
According to Deutsche Welle, they are also anxious about emerging competition, as local biofuel producers might want to go over to a cheaper palm oil from overseas instead of buying locally produced and more expensive rapeseed oil.
"This blockade can not be the solution", the minister told RTL radio, adding that "this blockade is illegal".
The number of French farms decreased by 7 percent a year ago and their bankruptcies rose by the proportion in France as a whole despite economy growth, according to the national statistical institute INSEE.