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Asia Minute: Prices of cooking oil still soaring while Indonesia continues ban on palm oil exports

A vendor shows packs of cooking oil at his stall at a market in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sunday, April 17, 2022. Indonesia will ban exports of cooking oil and its raw materials to reduce domestic shortages and hold down prices, President Joko Widodo announced Friday, April 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Achmad Ibrahim/AP
A vendor shows packs of cooking oil at his stall at a market in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sunday, April 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

“Supply chain disruption” is a phrase you’ve heard since the early days of the COVID pandemic. But for one product, it’s a squeeze hitting poor people around the world — including in the Asia-Pacific.

It’s been about two and a half weeks since Indonesia banned the export of palm oil.

Under normal conditions, the country is the world’s biggest supplier. But government leaders in Jakarta wanted to cut its domestic price — especially because of its popularity as a cooking oil.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already hit that sector. Ukraine is usually the world’s top supplier of sunflower oil — while Russia has historically been number two.

Supplies from both places have been disrupted — pushing up prices of all cooking oil.

So far, Indonesia’s ban has had some impact — domestic cooking oil prices have fallen a bit, but not as far as the government’s target level.

International prices remain high, and Indonesia’s neighbor Malaysia is cashing in by boosting its own cooking oil exports — including to the top market: India.

Meanwhile, India is having its own issues with another food-related product: cooking gas. The price of cylinders of liquified petroleum gas moved higher again this past week.

While inflation is a global issue, it’s especially hitting basic supplies for poor people — including food.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reports inflation just below 20% for cereal prices — and nearly 25% for cooking oil.

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