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Asia Minute: Indonesian crowds protest price of cooking oil and political uncertainty

Indonesia Student Protests 041122
Dita Alangkara/AP
Students shout slogans during a rally outside the parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, April 11, 2022. Thousands of students marched in cities around Indonesia on Monday to protest against rumors that the government is considering postponing the 2024 presidential election to allow President Joko Widodo to remain in office beyond the two-term legal limit, calling it a threat to the country's democracy. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

The continuing war in Ukraine is having impacts that extend to the Asia Pacific. One country that’s being affected is Indonesia — where it’s led to a spike in the price of cooking oil — and protests in the streets.

Ukraine is the world’s top exporter of sunflower seed oil.

Number two is Russia.

Those exports have been tossed into chaos — and the effects stretch far beyond these two countries.

Prices for sunflower seed oil have shot up; supplies have dwindled, and the search is on for substitute oils.

That has hit Indonesia — where the price of every kind of cooking oil has spiked higher.

Late last week, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said global food prices are rising at their fastest monthly pace in 14 years — with supplies of vegetable oils and grains of particular concern to poor countries around the world.

The price of cooking oil was one factor that sent demonstrators into the streets of Jakarta and several other Indonesian cities on Monday.

Police in the capital fired tear gas and water cannon to break up crowds near the parliament building.

But it’s not just economics behind the rallies — there’s a political aspect as well.

University students and others are protesting the idea raised by some that President Joko Widodo might extend his time in office beyond his current second term.

This weekend, the term-limited president said elections will be held as scheduled under the law — in February 2024.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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