Jakarta: Endless queues for cooking oil that Ukraine no longer exports
Almost all the world's sunflower oil production comes from the Black Sea region, whose ports were closed following the Russian invasion. Indonesia's paradox: It produces palm oil for export and has restricted its citizens to buying no more than two liters a day. Finding an alternative in the short term is complicated.
Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In the last week two women have died after queuing under the sun for several hours to get the two liters of cooking oil granted by the Indonesian government to each citizen. It happened in East Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, where many local residents are stockpiling food for fear that already scarce supplies will run out in the coming months.
Sandra, 41, fainted while waiting for the supermarket where she used to shop to open and was rushed to hospital. Rita Riyani, 49, died after two days in intensive care, exhausted by the long queues in front of several stores.
The conflict in Ukraine has led to higher prices for basic necessities, but also to a gradual shortage of edible oils across the Asian continent. Russia and Ukraine are not only the largest exporters of grain: 60% of the world's sunflower oil production and 76% of exports come from the Black Sea region. But Ukrainian ports were immediately closed following the Russian invasion on February 24 and are likely to remain closed for a long time to come.
Indonesia's situation, however, is paradoxical because Jakarta is among the leading producers of edible oils, particularly palm oil. Yohana Tiko, director of the Indonesian Environment Forum in East Kalimantan, explained to the South China Morning Post that production exceeds domestic demand, but because Indonesia produces only palm oil and fresh fruit, much of the processing is in the hands of private entrepreneurs dedicated to the export market.
In addition to limiting the purchase of two liters of cooking oil per person to one dollar per liter, the Indonesian government has enacted legislation that, starting March 25, will reduce exports: under what is called a "domestic market obligation" in the country, 30% of palm oil production - and no longer 20% - must be set aside for domestic consumption.
Malaysia is exploiting the situation and has not placed restrictions on exports, selling all its stocks. Another valid alternative to sunflower oil would be soybean oil, mostly produced in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. But shipments to Asia are long and expensive and also the production of this new liquid gold, because of the drought generated by climate change, could soon decrease.