Indonesia should be able to lift an export ban on palm oil and its refined products in May, an industry body said.

Indonesia has begun imposing a complete ban on palm oil exports, as the world's largest producer of the commodity risked destabilising a global vegetable oil market already hitting peak prices.

Authorities in southeast Asia's most populous country fear the scarcity and rising costs could provoke social tensions and have moved to secure supplies of the product, which is used in a range of goods such as chocolate spreads and cosmetics.

Indonesian officials expect to be able to tackle its domestic cooking oil shortage in the next few weeks.

Sahat Sinaga, senior official at the Indonesian Palm Oil Board, said that decision had shocked the industry, but was confident the supply issue could be resolved in early May, after the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

"It will be a great success. It won't take long. After Eid, the market will be flooded," he said.

A trade ministry regulation said the export policy would be reviewed monthly, or as often as needed, while Chief Economics Minister, Airlangga Hartarto, said it could be lifted when bulk cooking oil recedes to 14,000 rupiah (€0.92) a litre nationwide.

Earlier Indonesian authorities clarified the embargo would include all exports of the oilseed and not only products intended for edible oils, as indicated a day earlier.

"All products," including crude palm oil, "are covered by the Ministry of Trade regulation and will be enforced," said Mr Hartarto.

President Joko Widodo said supplying the country's 270 million residents was his government's "highest priority".

"As the world's largest palm oil producer, it is ironic that we are having difficulties getting cooking oil," he said.

Palm oil is used to make chocolate spreads (file pic)

Indonesia produces about 60% of the world's palm oil, with one-third consumed by its domestic market. India, China, the European Union and Pakistan are among its major export customers.

Southeast Asian islands, mostly belonging to Indonesia, collectively rank second in terms of forest destruction since 2002, with much of those forests cleared for palm oil plantations

The months-long shortage has been exacerbated by poor regulation and reluctance among producers to sell at home due to high international prices that have made exports more profitable.

Jakarta plans to resume exports when the price of bulk cooking oil in local markets has fallen to 14,000 rupiah (92 cent) per litre, having rocketed 70% in recent weeks to 26,000 rupiah (€1.71).

Workers at a plantation in Pekanbaru transfer palm fruits for processing into crude palm oil

Vegetable oils are among a number of staple food items that have seen prices hit record highs in recent weeks, following Russia's invasion of agricultural powerhouse Ukraine, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The supply of palm oil has been problematic since the beginning of the year, with people often spending hours in lengthy queues at distribution centres to obtain it.

For Ade Neni, who sells popular fried snacks called gorengan, the ban has been a blow for business.

"The high oil prices have reduced my sales," she said. "I had to increase the price of my gorengan."

Eddy Hartono, head of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association, said the new measures have already caused plantation farmers' incomes to plummet.

"There is no problem of supply, but of distribution," he said.

Public discontent with rising food prices has contributed to a decline in President Widodo's popularity, according to recent polls, and prompted protests in several cities.