Olam International

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Olam International Limited
Public company
Traded as SGX: O32
Industry Agri-business
Founded Nigeria (1989 (1989))
Headquarters ,
Key people
  • Kwa Chong Seng (Chairman)
  • Sunny George Verghese (CEO)
Revenue Increase S$26,272.5 million (2017)[1]
Increase S$1,202.8 million (2016) [2]
Increase S$363.800 million (2016) [2]
Total assets Increase S$15,173.208 million (2016) [2]
Total equity Increase S$5,634.304 million (2016)[2]
Number of employees
35,045 (2016)[2]
Website olamgroup.com

Olam International is a leading food and agri-business company in the world, operating from seed to shelf in 70 countries, supplying food and industrial raw materials to over 23,000 customers worldwide.[2] Olam is one of the world's largest suppliers of cocoa beans and products, coffee, cotton and rice.[3]


Established in 1989, Olam has evolved from a single-product, single-country geography, to a multi-product, multi-national, agri-business today, with 70,000 employees,[4] contract, seasonal and temporary workers from 70 different nationalities.

In 1989, the Kewalram Chanrai Group established Olam Nigeria Plc to set up a non-oil based export operation out of Nigeria to secure hard currency earnings to meet the foreign exchange requirements of the other Group Companies operating in Nigeria. The success of this operation resulted in Olam establishing an independent export operation and sourcing and exporting other agricultural products. The Group's agri-business was headquartered in London and operated under the name of Chanrai International Limited. The business began with the export of cashews from Nigeria and then expanded into exports of cotton, cocoa and sheanuts from Nigeria.

Move to Singapore[edit]

Between 1993 and 1995, the business grew from a single operation into multiple origins, first within West Africa (including Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Cameroon and Gabon), and then to East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and Madagascar) and then India. The move into multiple origin countries coincided with the deregulation of the agricultural commodity markets.

Olam International Limited was incorporated in Singapore on 4 July 1995 as a public limited company. In 1996, at the invitation of the Singapore Trade Development Board (now International Enterprise Singapore), Olam relocated their entire operations from London to Singapore. Furthermore, the Singapore Government awarded Olam the Approved International Trader status (now called the Global Trader Programme) under which Olam was granted a concessionary tax rate of 10%, which was subsequently reduced, in 2004, to 5%. On relocation to Singapore, the Group's agri-business was reorganised to be wholly owned by Olam International Limited in Singapore.

During this phase, Olam established sourcing and marketing operations in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Papua New Guinea, the Middle East, Central Asia and Brazil.


In 2002, Russell AIF Singapore Investments Limited (managed by OnAIF Capital limited), became the first external investor to take an equity stake in the company. In 2003, Temasek Holdings, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Seletar Investments, took a stake in Olam, followed by International Finance Corporation (IFC).

In 2005, Olam International Limited was listed on the Main Board of the Singapore Exchange on 11 February 2005. Temasek made a strategic investment in Olam in 2009.

As of December 2014, following a Voluntary General Offer[5] it holds close to 51.4% of Olam.[6] In 2015 Mitsubishi Corporate acquired a shareholding of 20% making them the second largest shareholder.

The Management Team of Olam has a significant shareholding in the company approximating 5.8%[7] in the total issued share capital. Olam's free float owned by public shareholders accounts for approximately 14.8% of the total issued share capital.[8]

Post IPO[edit]

Olam is active in the supply chain management of agricultural raw materials and food ingredients. With operations across more than 70 countries, Olam supplies 47 agri-products[4] and markets them to over 23,000 customers[4] with a global employee strength of 35,045, totalling 70,000 when contract and temporary workers are included.[2]

In 2010, Olam International discussed a possible merger with one of its main competitors, i.e. the Geneva-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities, the world's largest cotton and rice trading company. This idea was given-up early 2011, as the two parties could not find an agreement on the details of such a potential merger.

Olam announced in July 2013, that it would sell its cotton assets in Zimbabwe, with the preferred buyer being a private equity company.[9]

Deforestation-linked palm oil, cocoa, and rubber[edit]

Between 2011 and 2015, Olam's palm oil trade volume grew by approximately twenty times—from 71,000 tons to 1.53 million tons.[10] Despite Olam's stated commitment to RSPO-certified palm oil, the company shunned transparency as it expanded its palm oil production.[11][12]

A report[13] released by the NGO Mighty Earth and Gabon-based NGO Brainforest on December 12, 2016 revealed that Olam was operating a secretive palm oil trading operation worldwide, particularly with its third party suppliers in Asia. Olam was accused of endangering the forest habitats of gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants due to widespread deforestation.[14] It was revealed that in Gabon Olam had cut 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) of forest for palm oil.[15]

The photos and videos featured in the NGO report show Olam bulldozing Gabonese rainforests for rubber and to establish what they intended to build as Africa's largest palm oil plantation. The analysis found that in Gabon Olam cleared approximately 26,000 hectares of forest across its four palm oil concessions since 2012[16][17][18][19] and additional forests for rubber.

The two NGOs also documented Olam's cutting down an area the size of Washington DC in what had been an intact forest landscape in Northern Gabon, for rubber in Gabon.[20]

On December 16, 2016, shortly after the report was released, Mighty Earth submitted a formal complaint against Olam to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for Olam's deforestation and for violating FSC policies.[21] In response to these allegations, on February 21, 2017, Olam suspended further land clearing of forests in Gabon for at least a year.[22] As a result, Mighty Earth suspended its campaign.[23][21][24][25][26]

On September 13, 2017 NGO Mighty Earth released a second report[27] documenting findings that Olam purchases cocoa grown illegally in national parks and other protected forests in the Ivory Coast.

The report accused Olam of endangering the forest habitats of chimpanzees, elephants and other wildlife populations by purchasing cocoa linked to deforestation.[28][29][30] As a result of cocoa production, 7 of the 23 Ivorian protected areas have been almost entirely converted to cocoa.[31] Olam was notified of the findings of Mighty Earth's investigation and did not deny that the company sourced its cocoa from protected areas in the Ivory Coast.

Muddy Waters allegations[edit]

In November 2012, Carson Block of Muddy Waters Research accused Olam of "deciding to take huge leverage and invest in illiquid positions",[32] questioning its accounting practices and accusing its board of an "abject failure of leadership".[33] Olam called the allegations "baseless rumour-mongering" and sued Block for libel,[34][35] but its shares nevertheless fell 21%.[32]

Forced evictions and land clearance in Laos[edit]

The company is involved in the production of coffee in Laos and the clearance of forests and villages to plant large plantations. Areas of land that were acquired by the company were previously inhabited and farmed by villagers who had paid their land taxes and were also farming coffee alongside other products.[36] Compensation was only partly paid, with many evicted landholders being paid only in rice. Many landholders are now facing challenges to grow enough food to survive. This development of large industrial plantations at the sacrifice of the small holding family unit is argued by some to be counterproductive to the development of Laos; as it reduces the overall agricultural productivity; and increases poverty amongst the families, while a few officials and the company benefit.[37]

Myanmar blames Olam for damaging Myanmar rice export market[edit]

In April 2019, Ivory Costs destroyed nearly 17,000 tons of Myanmar sourced rice after health officials there declared the rice unfit for human consumption. Initially Myanmar suppliers came under scrutiny for selling poor quality rice. But according to a Myanmar Times 23 April 2019 report an initial investigation led by Myanmar Ministry of Commerce cited rain damage at sea along with an unusual long shipping time at sea, was the cause for the damage. MOC officials also stated that it was very worried that the damage caused during shipping would negatively impact future exports of Myanmar grown rice.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://www.olamgroup.com/content/dam/olamgroup/files/uploads/2018/04/10Apr2018_OIL_2017AnnualReport.pdf
  2. ^ a b c d e f g http://olamgroup.com/investor-relations/annual-report-2016/
  3. ^ "Products & Services - Olam". Olam. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "About Olam". Olam. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  5. ^ Voluntary Unconditional Cash Offer: Close of the Offer, Dealings Disclosure and Final Level of Acceptances for 23 May 2014
  6. ^ Shareholding Structure
  7. ^ "Shareholding Structure - Olam". Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  8. ^ "Shareholding Structure". Olam. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  9. ^ Olam to Sell Zim Assets, Africa: AllAfrica.com, 2013
  10. ^ "RSPO Progress Report 2015, Olam International" (PDF).
  11. ^ The Rainforest Foundation UK. Seeds of Destruction Report. February 2013.http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/media.ashx/seedsofdestructionfebruary2013.pdf
  12. ^ "Ag Commodities Giant Agrees to Stop Deforestation in Africa". Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit. 22 February 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  13. ^ "Palm Oil's Black Box" (PDF). December 2016.
  14. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Palm oil giant defends its deforestation in Gabon, points to country's 'right to develop'". news.mongabay.com. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  16. ^ Selby, Gaynor (12 December 2016). "Olam Linked to Palm Oil Related Deforestation in Scathing New Report". Food Ingredients First. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  17. ^ Shah, Vaidehi (12 December 2016). "Green groups and Olam at loggerheads over deforestation". Eco Business. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  18. ^ Fogarty, David (13 December 2016). "Olam denies charges of destroying Gabon forest". Straits Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Palm oil giant Olam accused over sourcing". BBC News. 12 December 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  20. ^ Mighty Earth and Brainforest Gabon. Submission to the FSC: Olam Rubber Gabon - Deforestation the past five years. 2016. http://www.mightyearth.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Olam-Rubber-Gabon.pdf
  21. ^ a b "Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate on Forest Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture in Highly Forested Countries - Olam". Olam. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  22. ^ "Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate on Forest Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture in Highly Forested Countries - Olam". Olam. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  23. ^ Soh, Andrea. "Olam to pause land clearing in Gabon in truce with Mighty Earth". The Business Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  24. ^ "BRIEF-Olam and Mighty Earth agree to collaborate". Reuters. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  25. ^ "Olam to pause forest clearing in Gabon in truce with Mighty Earth". AsiaOne. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  26. ^ hermesauto (22 February 2017). "Olam, US green group agree to collaborate on forest conservation and sustainable agriculture". The Straits Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  27. ^ "Chocolate's Dark Secret". September 2017.
  28. ^ Covey, R. and McGraw, W. S. “Monkeys in a West African bushmeat market: implications for cercopithecid conservation in eastern Liberia.Tropical Conservation Science. 7.1 (2014): 115-125.
  29. ^ Marchesi, P., Marchesi, N., Fruth, B., and Boesch, C. “Census and Distribution of Chimpanzees in Cote D’Ivoire.PRIMATES. 36.4(1995): 591-607.
  30. ^ Poaching contributes to forest elephant declines in Côte d’Ivoire, new numbers reveal.WWF. 05 September 2011.
  31. ^ Bitty, A. E., Gonedele, S. B., Koffi Bene, J.C., Kouass, P.Q.I and McGraw, W. S. “Cocoa farming and primate extirpation inside The Ivory Coast’s protected areas.Tropical Conservation Science. 8.1(2015): 95-113.
  32. ^ a b "Olam launches defence against Muddy Waters - FT.com". Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  33. ^ "Muddy Waters Reaction to Olam Frantic Response - Muddy Waters Research". Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  34. ^ "Olam Sues Short-Seller Muddy Waters". Reuters  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 21 November 2012. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  35. ^ Jones, Sam. "Olam hits back at Block with libel suit". Retrieved 14 July 2016 – via Financial Times.
  36. ^ http://www.laolandissues.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Case-Champasak-Coffee-in-Paksong-June-2012.pdf
  37. ^ How Asia Works, Studwell J, Longlist 2013
  38. ^ "The World's Biggest Public Companies". Forbes. 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2019.

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