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Widodo replaces trade minister following cooking oil crisis




JAKARATA, IndonesiaIndonesian President Joko Widodo replaced his trade minister on Wednesday following a cooking oil crisis that rocked global markets, saying people needed someone with experience.

Despite being the world’s largest producer of palm oil, Indonesia has faced domestic shortages and steep price hikes for months as war in Ukraine chokes off global supplies.

In April, the government imposed a palm oil export ban, now lifted, further stunning global markets after Russia invaded its neighbour.

On Wednesday, Widodo removed Muhammad Lutfi from his post in a cabinet reshuffle, naming Zulkifli Hasan, who sits in the ruling coalition, as his successor.

He (Hasan) will be good as Minister of Commerce. Right now for food issues, people need someone with experience, someone who goes straight to work on the ground, Widodo told reporters.

The new minister said his first priority would be to immediately resolve the cooking oil crisis that afflicts 270 million Indonesians, many of whom depend on the product for food and business.

Lutfi, who was once Indonesia’s envoy to Japan, had accused a palm oil mafia of thwarting efforts to lower cooking oil prices.

Indonesia produces around 60% of the world’s palm oil, which is used in products ranging from chocolate spreads to cosmetics, a third of which is consumed by its domestic market.

The cabinet overhaul came as Widodo tries to address a range of issues in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, with national shortages of edible cooking oil being the most pressing, experts said.

It is acceptable to substitute players during added time as long as it is for better performance and not political consolidation, Hendri Satrio, a political analyst at Paramadina University, told AFP.

A survey released Monday by pollster Charta Politika found nearly two-thirds of those polled supported Widodo in his cabinet reshuffle.




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