Indonesia began enforcing a total ban on palm oil exports on Thursday, fearing that the world's largest producer of the commodity would destabilise a global vegetable oil market already at peak prices.
Consumers in numerous cities have had to queue for hours in front of distribution centres to obtain the critical commodity at subsidised rates, due to a scarcity of local supplies of cooking oil and rising prices.
Authorities in Southeast Asia's most populous country have pushed to secure supplies of the substance, which is used in a variety of products such as chocolate spreads and cosmetics, fearing that shortages and rising costs could cause civil unrest. They emphasised late Wednesday that the embargo will cover all shipments of the oilseed, not just items intended for edible oils, as they had stated the day before.
"All products," including crude palm oil, "are covered by Ministry of Trade regulation, which will be enforced," said Airlangga Hartarto, the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs. President Joko Widodo stated that serving the country's 270 million people was his government's "top priority."
"It's odd that we're having trouble procuring cooking oil as the world's greatest producer of palm oil," he remarked.