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France taps strategic fuel stocks to avoid sugar factory stoppages

By Sybille de La Hamaide

PARIS, Oct 10 (Reuters) - France has released strategic fuel reserves for sugar producers after they warned that a lack of diesel impacting the harvesting of sugar beet could lead to factory stoppages, producer group SNFS said on Monday.

Strikes over wages at TotalEnergies and Exxon Mobil refineries have disrupted refining and delivery, leaving a third of French fuel stations running short. The French government said last week that it had tapped its strategic fuel reserves to resupply stations that had run dry.

France's largest sugar maker Tereos said last month it had to slow output at some factories after TotalEnergies said it would be unable to supply diesel. It declined to comment on the strategic stock release.

Cristal Union, France's second largest producer, said its own fuel stocks had allowed it to maintain production rates last week, but that it had used strategic reserves over the weekend.

Sugar factories, which usually run from September to late January or early February in France, rely on farmers having enough fuel to harvest sugar beet and transport it to a factory to be processed.

The decision to release strategic stocks late last week followed a meeting between sugar producers and French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau last Wednesday.

"We explained that there were worrying tensions that risked leading to temporary factory closures," SNFS Chairman Christian Spiegeleer told Reuters.

"The state agreed to tap the strategic stocks so that the lack of diesel does not affect the factories' proper functioning," he added.

The French Agriculture Ministry had no immediate comment. (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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