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David Fickling

The Other Oil Crisis Will Lead to a Hungrier World

Indonesia’s palm plantations produce a critical supply of edible fats to large populations in India and beyond. A policy-induced shortage will have dire consequences.

Guess what’s inside.

Guess what’s inside.

Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

As if there weren’t enough problems right now, the world is facing the threat of an oil embargo. 

No, not black gold — red gold, better known as palm oil. Prices gyrated this week after Indonesia, which produces about two-thirds of the global crop, promised to halt exports of the deep-orange edible fat to calm domestic food prices in the run-up to the Eid al-Fitr public holiday. Panic subsided a little Tuesday after clarification that the ban wouldn’t apply to the crude palm oil that’s a benchmark for the global price of vegetable fats. Still, the world should take the episode as a taste of things to come, as the growth of biofuels increasingly conflicts with the need to feed the world’s poorest.