Shares of some of Indonesia’s leading palm oil plantation companies and the rupiah currency dropped today after the government shocked markets by making last-minute changes to an export ban to include crude palm oil and other refined products.

Markets had initially been relieved after Indonesia’s chief economic minister said the ban would only cover refined, bleached, and deodorised (RBD) palm olein, but in a policy U-turn yesterday the other products were included.

The move had an immediate impact on global vegetable oil markets, sending palm oil futures in Malaysia up by 9.8 per cent with the jittery mood spilling over into markets today.

Shares in Indonesia palm oil company Astra Agro Lestari fell 5.4 per cent, Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology dipped 1.3 per cent and Salim Ivomas Pratama dropped 2.8 per cent in early trade in Jakarta.

In an investor note, brokerage Trimegah Securities said the palm oil export ban could be a short-term policy aimed at cutting stubbornly high prices of domestic cooking oil but warned it was hard to predict a timeline.

President Joko Widodo said yesterday that the people’s need for affordable food trumped revenue concerns for now.

The rupiah currency also fell today, shedding 0.4 per cent against the dollar by 0230GMT.

Radhika Rao, senior economist at DBS Bank, said the prospect of exports being impacted was negative for Indonesian earnings and the current account and would “dampen sentiment on the rupiah”. The downside risks would increase if the ban continued beyond one or two months, she said.

An Indonesian trade ministry regulation said the policy would be reviewed monthly or as often as needed.

Chief Economics Minister Airlangga Hartarto said the export ban would be lifted when the price of bulk cooking oil had come down to 14,000 rupiah (RM4.23) per litre across Indonesia.

Cooking oil was offered at around 19,000-20,000 rupiah per litre in Jakarta’s traditional markets yesterday.

Source: Reuters