The oilseeds complex recorded a fresh series of record price highs after Indonesia banned exports of edible oils – including palm oil, of which it is the top producer – in a bid to protect domestic supplies.

In Chicago, best-traded soyoil futures for July soared 4.5% at one stage to 83.21 cents a pound, the highest ever for a nearest-but-one contract.

Futures in rapeseed and its canola variant, both key sources of vegetable oil, also recorded record highs.

In Winnipeg, canola futures for July added 2.0% to Can$1,182.40 a tonne, the setting a new high for a second-in contract, with Paris rapeseed for August matching that achievement in leaping by 3.4% to E884.75 a tonne.

The spot May contract reached as high as E1,094.00 a tonne.

Export ban

Earlier, futures in palm oil itself for July closed up by a relatively modest 0.7% at 6,355 ringgit a tonne in Kuala Lumpur, well below the record of 7,268 ringgit a tonne set last month.

However, trading ended before the announcement by Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, of the ban, starting on April 28, on exports of cooking oil and its raw materials, of which palm oil the key one in the country.

The curb was aimed at preserving supplies for the domestic market, with Mr Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, saying that “I will continue to watch and evaluate the implementation of this policy so that the domestic supply of cooking oil is abundant and the price is affordable”.

Although Indonesia’s government has a set a cap of 14,000 rupiah per litre for bulk cooking oil, official data show that it was selling this month for more than 18,000 rupiah per litre, with the retail price averaging more than 26,000 rupiah so far this year.

The high retail prices, which have doubled over the past month according to Reuters, have prompted demonstrations by students in several Indonesian cities.

‘Not very successful’

The ban represents the latest attempt by Indonesia to keep a lid on its prices, which it first attempted to protect through a “domestic market obligation” on suppliers to sell 20% of palm oil volumes at a cut price.

As plantations group Sipef, which produces palm oil in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, said on Thursday, “when the DMO proved to be not very successful, it was dropped, and an increased export levy was introduced by late March to subsidise the local cooking oil prices”.

Vegetable oil prices have been sent soaring by factors including: drought in South America, which curtailed soyoil supplies; plantation labour shortages in Malaysia, the second-ranked palm oil producer; and most lately the war in Ukraine, the top producer and exporter of sunflower oil.

‘Big unknown’

Ukraine is a major shipper too of rapeseed, mainly to the European Union, which uses rapeseed oil mainly for making biodiesel.

However, “Ukrainian rapeseed production and exports in the upcoming marketing year are a big unknown”, a briefing overnight from US Department of Agriculture staff in Europe warned.

While Ukraine’s farmers expanded plantings of rapeseed – which is nearly all autumn seeded in the country – to about 1.4m hectares for the 2022 harvest, “over a third of this area was in areas of hostilities in mid-March 2022”.

This “has a significant consequence since part of the crop may be lost”, while on “the remaining area, farmers may not be able to tend the crop as usual due to lack of labour, fuel, plant protection products and fertilizer,” the report said.

“Fuel shortage has been the most prominent problem recently.”