Dozens of French farmers blocked access to 13 refineries across the country on Monday to protest plans to import palm oil for use in biofuels, a move they denounce as unfair competition which jeopardises their livelihood.
Environmentalists have blamed palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.
Separately, junior minister Brune Poirson, who reports to environment minister Nicolas Hulot, said on Twitter that "France wants to stop the rise in use from one year to the other" for both palm oil and soybean oil.
Farmers are concerned about the impact on locally produced oilseed crops, further souring relations between the EU's biggest agricultural sector and the government of President Emmanuel Macron.More news: USA, Canada and Mexico to host 2026 FIFA World Cup
She called farmers to hold blockades until at least the morning.
Stephane Travert said the government will not back down on its decision to allow Total to use imported palm oil.
The minister called on angry protesters to join talks to find "adequate solutions".
According to FNSEA head Christiane Lambert, the protest is aimed at exerting pressure on French authorities over recent trade deals that would give a green light to imports of meat, sugar and ethanol from states "that do not respect the same conditions of production as French products".More news: N-Out Burger locations in Texas to remain closed Tuesday
Total has invested 275 million euros ($324 million) to transform La Mede refinery into a plant that can make 500,000 tons of biodiesel per year.
The farmers also have the support of environmental activists, and are hoping to rally support among consumers anxious about unfair competition stemming from free-trade accords, including the CETA deal between the European Union and Canada as well as ongoing talks with the European Union and South American Mercosur nations.
"This blockade can not be the solution", the minister told RTL radio, adding that "this blockade is illegal".
Indonesia and Malaysia are the two largest producers of palm oil.More news: Murder probe as hunt under way for killers of Polish man
Lambert is also calling for lower social charges on seasonal workers, "which are 27 percent higher than in Germany and 37 percent higher than in Italy". The refineries were still operating.