The commissioning of Total's 500,000t/yr hydro-treated vegetable oil (HVO) biodiesel plant at La Mede, Marseille, pushed French palm oil imports to a 41-month high in March.
France imported over 40,000t of palm oil in March, according to customs bureau data. This was the highest level of imports since October 2015, up by 95pc on the year and up from just over 15,000t on the month. First quarter imports were close to 85,000t, up by 18pc on the year.
Imports were boosted by the arrival of a first cargo of around 20,000t to La Mede in March. Lavera has taken receipt of another cargo likely to be palm oil, as well as seaborne deliveries of around 10,000t of rapeseed oil, loaded at the northern inland port of Rouen.
This would equate to around 50,000t of seaborne vegetable oil receipts since the end of March at La Mede. At peak capacity La Mede should consume a little over 40,000t/month of feedstock.
France's largest supplier in March was Indonesia with 22,500t, the highest in nine years and up from 2,000t in February.
The start-up of La Mede and the receipt of larger volumes of palm oil by Total has irked French rapeseed farmers, which supply dominant French biodiesel producer Groupe Avril with seed for crushing and production of rapeseed biodiesel (RME). Farming confederations have also raised the possibility of a blockade of refineries and oil product depots in June, as a protest against La Mede and Total's palm oil imports.
France imported palm oil in a range largely between 25,000-48,000t/month between 2010 and the end of 2015. But concerns over the environmental impact of palm oil production dampened domestic demand and imports, until March (see chart).