Indonesia’s cooking oil shortage has turned deadly following the deaths of two residents who died after queuing for the liquid gold in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. The tragedies occurred despite the area being one of the largest producers of Crude Palm Oil (CPO) and fresh palm oil fruit in Indonesia . On Saturday, a housewife Sandra, 41, fainted while queuing for over an hour in the hot sun waiting for her local minimarket to open. She died in an ambulance on the way to the local hospital. Police say she suffered from asthma. On Tuesday, 49-year-old Rita Riyani died after being in intensive care for two days. The Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit of the Samarinda Police said Riyani may have been exhausted from queuing at three different supermarkets, where she was trying to buy the allotted two litres of cooking oil from each store. “The victim felt pain and cramps in her hand and called her husband. She then fell unconscious and was taken to hospital,” Andika Dharma Sena told local media following news of her death. What are the biggest risks faced by Asia-Pacific economies amid Ukraine war? Indonesia has been gripped by a palm oil panic for several months as the price of CPO has risen by 40 per cent since the start of the year as a result of high global prices caused by a range of factors. These include Russia ’s invasion of Ukraine which has caused shortages of other oils such as sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, as well as disappointing production targets in other palm oil producing countries like Malaysia . To try and tackle the shortages, the Indonesian government has limited the purchase of cooking oil to two litres per person. Some customers like Riyani have been stockpiling oil for fear the meagre supplies will further run out, as well as buying and reselling it to other residents desperate to get their hands on the liquid gold. On Thursday, queues continued to snake around minimarkets in Kalimantan where one local resident who did not want to be named told This Week in Asia this was the second time in recent weeks she had to queue for the basic commodity. “We don’t want to keep queuing like this and prices will return to normal,” she said, adding she had to bring a photocopy of her identity card and family card to the minimarket. Some stores began registering customers’ information to ensure they did not return to buy more oil and get around the two litre regulation. In the city of Medan, North Sumatra, shelves in local shops and minimarkets were similarly bare, with signs telling customers they would only be able to purchase two litres of cooking oil, with the price capped at IDR14,000 (US$1.00) per litre. At one supermarket in Medan, an employee who did not want to be named said they had been fielding customer complaints for weeks about the lack of cooking oil on the shelves. They even noticed customers selling oil at the side of the road on the black market to try and meet demand. The director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment in East Kalimantan (WALHI Kaltim), Yohana Tiko, said the situation was regretful considering the fact that Indonesia, and Kalimantan in particular, is the largest exporter of the edible oil in the world. “There shouldn’t be a shortage and yet that is exactly what has happened. What is going on here?” she said. “What is the problem between the raw material providers and the oil producers?” Malaysia, Indonesia palm oil farms using children, trafficked workers: probe Tiko added the CPO produced in Indonesia exceeds domestic demand, which should mean there is a surplus in the country. But since Indonesia only produces CPO and fresh fruit, much of the processing is in the hands of private entrepreneurs who are focused on the export market. “This should act as a warning to the government to manage the situation and not just export palm oil products,” she said. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has been scrambling to deal with the problem. On Tuesday, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, said that the government was paying attention to the global situation where commodity prices have increased for a variety of oils. Oil goes ‘berserk’: Asia braces for fallout of Russia’s Ukraine invasion In a bid to control escalating palm oil prices, a new government regulation which takes effect on Friday removed a 30 per cent export volume curb as Indonesia hiked a palm oil levy to a maximum of US$375 per tonne from a previous maximum export tax of US$175 per tonne. Indonesia’s Minister for Trade, Muhammad Lutfi, announced the levy hike at a parliament committee hearing on Thursday, during which he was criticised by lawmakers who accused him of “panicking” after he withdrew palm oil export volume restrictions known as Domestic Market Obligation (DMO). That requirement ensured palm oil exporters set aside 30 per cent of palm oil products for the domestic market, up from the previous 20 per cent. Lufti’s ministry has changed regulations involving CPO at least six times since the start of the year. The latest government plan is to use the funds from the new levies to subsidise bulk cooking oil sales over the next six months and distribute more than 200 million litres of cooking oil across Indonesia each month. “The government has decided to subsidise bulk palm oil at 14,000 rupiah per litre (US$1.00),” said Hartarto in an address on the government’s YouTube channel on Tuesday. “Subsidies will be given based on funds from the Palm Plantation Fund Management Agency.” “We hope that at this price, palm oil will be available in the supermarkets as well as traditional markets and wet markets. For that, the National Police Chief will ensure availability and supply,” he said.