Olam stops staff going to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; forms Ebola crisis committee

An isolation tent for people suspected to have Ebola is seen at the border with Guinea in Kouremale, on Oct 2, 2014. Singapore-based commodities trader Olam International has restricted its staff from travelling to parts of West Africa - Guinea, Libe
An isolation tent for people suspected to have Ebola is seen at the border with Guinea in Kouremale, on Oct 2, 2014. Singapore-based commodities trader Olam International has restricted its staff from travelling to parts of West Africa - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - that have been the worst-hit by the Ebola virus. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

SINGAPORE - Singapore-based commodities trader Olam International has restricted its staff from travelling to parts of West Africa - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - that have been the worst-hit by the Ebola virus. The ban will remain in effect until the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that the virus has been contained, the company said in an e-mail interview with The Straits Times.

While Olam does not run direct operations in those countries, its associate SIFCA, an African agri-business group, owns a rubber plantation in Liberia.

Olam has experienced "no adverse impact" from the outbreak so far, and is "continuing with business as usual", said a spokesman. "We continue to take precautions and monitor the situation very closely," he added.

Besides imposing the travel restriction, Olam has stepped up on precautionary measures for its business in Nigeria, even as the country has not reported a new case since Sep 8.

The company has also set up an internal Ebola Crisis Committee, which will "monitor and evaluate the situation and provide updates (to its employees) in a timely manner". It has issued employees in Africa with an advisory containing precautionary measures, and briefed managers to recognise symptoms of the virus so they can isolate people quickly and in an appropriate manner if necessary.

"We have been operating in Africa for 25 years, and although we have not encountered such a virulent situation as Ebola, we have successfully managed our operations through outbreaks of cholera and other issues," said the spokesman.

"Africa remains a crucial part of Olam's business...and is a growth engine for the company," he noted.

Olam firm has operations in 65 countries - 25 of which are across Africa - and supplies food and industrial raw materials to over 13,800 customers worldwide.

Olam said: "We continue to believe in Africa's potential, underpinned by the availability of arable land, its agri-production cost-competitiveness, and growth in food consumption."