Hundreds of Indonesian smallholder farmers protested in Jakarta and other parts of the world’s fourth most populous country on Tuesday, demanding that the government lift a restriction on palm oil exports that has reduced their income.
Indonesia, the world’s leading palm oil supplier, has banned exports of crude palm oil and several of its derivative products since April 28 in an effort to rein in local cooking oil prices, which has rattled global vegetable oil markets.
Farmers conducted a rally outside the offices of the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs, which is in charge of government policies, marching beside a truck loaded with palm oil fruit.
Protesters held up signs that said, “Malaysian farmers wear full smiles, Indonesian farmers suffer.” Malaysia, the world’s second-largest producer of palm oil, has stated that it intends to fill any gaps created by Indonesia’s export prohibition.
The smallholder farmer’s group APKASINDO said in a statement that the price of palm fruit has plunged 70% below the regional authorities’ floor price since the export restriction was announced.
Meanwhile, according to APKASINDO, at least 25% of palm oil mills have ceased buying palm fruit from small-scale growers.
According to the organization, the demonstrators planned to march to the presidential palace. It was also reported that similar rallies were taking place in 22 other regions.
After a succession of initiatives failed to regulate the price of the fundamental household food item, Indonesian President Joko Widodo issued an export restriction on palm oil and its derivative products used in the production of cooking oil.
Due to rising prices, Jokowi’s popularity ratings fell to their lowest level since December 2015, according to a poll released this week.
According to pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia, satisfaction with Jokowi dropped to 58.1 percent in May, the lowest level since December 2015, when the president’s approval rating dipped to 53 percent.
The prohibition will remain in effect until bulk cooking oil prices in Indonesia fall to 14,000 rupiah ($0.9563) a litre, according to Chief Economics Minister Airlangga Hartarto.
Bulk cooking oil was priced on average at 17,300 rupiah per litre on Friday, according to Trade Ministry data.