LONDON (Reuters) - A group of armed individuals has occupied a Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] sunflower-seed crushing plant in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region after it was closed due to the increased tensions in the area, the company said on Friday.
The agribusiness giant, one of the world's largest private companies, said it stopped operations at the plant on July 4.
"We could not allow our employees to be put at risk, and currently we have no employees on site. The plant has subsequently been occupied by a small number of armed individuals whose intentions are not clear to us," Cargill said in an emailed statement.
"The plant plays an important role in the local and regional economy, and we look forward to the situation normalizing so we can resume our operations. We cannot predict when that will be."
Cargill, one of the leading sunflower seed crushers in Ukraine, built the plant in 2000. The plant's annual crushing capacity is 600,000 tonnes. Cargill said it is servicing its customers via its other plants.
Archer Daniels Midland Co and Bunge Ltd said they were operating normally in Ukraine and monitoring the situation. Their facilities are located outside of the area affected by political tensions, representatives of the companies noted.
Still, Bunge has conducted additional safety, emergency and evacuation training for employees in the region, spokeswoman Susan Burns said.
ADM, Bunge and Cargill, along with Louis Dreyfus [LOUDR.UL], comprise a group of companies known as the "ABCD" that dominate the flow of agricultural commodities around the world. Louis Dreyfus could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sporadic violence has continued in eastern Ukraine. Government forces have recently gained the upper hand in the three-month conflict against separatists in the Russian-speaking eastern regions in which more than 200 government troops have been killed as well as hundreds of civilians and rebel fighters.
(Reporting by Sarah McFarlane and Jonathan Saul in London and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by David Evans and Jonathan Oatis)