PARIS (Reuters) - Planned European duties on biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia are high enough to bring a stop to imports and should offer relief to the EU's industry, the head of the bloc's top biodiesel maker Sofiproteol said on Wednesday.
A majority of European Union member states on Tuesday cleared duties on biodiesel imported from the two countries, which have been accused of selling it into the bloc at unfairly low prices.
The European Commission proposed duties of between 217 and 246 euros ($300-$340) per tonne on biodiesel imports from Argentina and between 122 and 179 euros a tonne on imports from Indonesia, figures seen by Reuters showed.
"The amounts envisaged will in my view seal the fate of imports because with such amounts it will be very complicated for Argentina and Indonesia to be competitive compared to biodiesel produced in France," Jean-Philippe Puig, CEO of French oilseeds group Sofiproteol, told Reuters.
Sofiproteol is an oilseed growers' group and its unit Diester Industrie is the largest producer of biodiesel in the EU. It said in July it would close two plants to bring its EU capacity to about 2.4 million tonnes from 3 million last year.
"The European industry, which was very penalised (by these imports), should recover some production potential and profitability," Puig said.
Argentina is the world's biggest biodiesel exporter. It is preparing to take the EU to the World Trade Organisation to challenge the duties, sources have said.
From very low levels in 2008, EU biodiesel imports from the two countries has risen progressively to make up 90 percent of EU biodiesel imports, with both benefiting from the imposition of anti-dumping duties on U.S. biodiesel in 2009.
Imports began to slow at the start of 2013 as it became clear the EU would take anti-dumping measures, and after the EU imposed provisional anti-dumping tariffs in May.
The tariffs adopted on Tuesday are slightly higher than the provisional ones and should be in place by the end of November.
Biodiesel imports from Argentina stood at just 272,000 tonnes in the first half of the year compared to 1.4 million in the whole of 2012, while imports from Indonesia were at 192,000 tonnes in January-June against 1.1 million last year, Sofiproteol said.
Other good news for European biodiesel producers came last week when European lawmakers deferred plans to curb the use of fuels made from food crops, providing a reprieve for some in the bioenergy industry.
The decision brakes for now a policy U-turn from the European Commission, which had said certain kinds of biofuels had to be limited after earlier encouraging them.
There will be more time to put forward scientific evidence that crop-based biofuels do not harm the environment, Puig said.
"We were in a dogmatic debate rather than in a scientific one," he said. "I am happy that we managed to make lawmakers doubt, at least those who wanted to block biofuels because the scientific debate is not exhausted."
At the same time he said a delay was not necessarily good news as companies needed to have clarity to make decisions.
"Industry players don't like to live with a sword of Damocles above their head," he said.
Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by David Evans