Indonesia is delaying implementation of its 40% biodiesel blending (B40) programme because of the coronavirus pandemic, Argus Media reported on 3 April.

Trials had been due to begin in March with a roll-out planned for 2021 but the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources said there were "still issues" with the current B30 programme that had to be resolved, although B40 was still a working target.

Indonesia has been pushing B40 to reduce petroleum imports and support the domestic palm oil industry.

Argus Media wrote that market participants had already been sceptical on the feasibility of B40 for logistical and financial reasons. The country would need 9M tonnes/year of biodiesel to meet the B30 mandate but current capacity was just 11M tonnes/year. And the subsidy mechanism was already struggling to support the current B30 programme, with palm oil premiums against gasoil remaining at three-year highs.

Meanwhile, Indonesian palm oil farmers have appealed to President Joko Widodo not to impose a total lockdown, as suggested by several parliamentarians, to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the Union of Catholic Asian News reported on 27 March.

The Association of Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers said a lockdown would impoverish around 10M farmers and lead to the closure of palm oil factories.

In Malaysia, deputy chief minister of Sarawak Douglas Uggah Embas said oil palm plantations and mills could continue to operate if they complied with the standard operating procedures including temperature checks, social distancing and no large gatherings at workers' quarters, The Star reported on 25 March.

All plantations and mills in Sarawak were also required to submit a list of their workers to the state disaster management committee.

"We want to know the number of foreign workers in the respective plantations and mills. We also want to know if there are any health issues and their travel history."

Uggah said although no positive cases had been found in Sarawak plantations, plantations were a potential area of random clusters, as had occurred in Sabah where several plantations were closed after positive cases were detected.

"Nearly 70% of our positive cases are imported cases, so this is why we want the foreign workers to be monitored closely by the plantations," he said.