McIlveen engages with rural businesses in Fermanagh

Date published: 06 October 2016

The success of rural businesses is delivering benefits to the Fermanagh community, DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen said as she spent the day meeting farmers and business enterprises in the county.

Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen pictured with John and Eileen Hall on their farm in Co. Fermanagh. The Minister heard how John and Eileen diversified from beef and sheep farming to grow their award winning Cavanagh free range eggs brand.

Miss McIlveen visited award-winning Cavanagh Eggs in Newtownbutler before travelling to Balcas Timber Ltd.

Cavanagh Eggs is a family business run by husband and wife John and Eileen Hall in the townland of Cavanagh near Newtownbutler, Fermanagh. Initially established on a beef and sheep farm in 2002, the business has expanded steadily and now John and Eileen produce approximately 13 million eggs per year.

Michelle McIlveen said: “Having met John and Eileen during the recent local shows it was great to have the opportunity to visit their business premises and hear how they diversified, with the assistance of CAFRE, from their previous beef and sheep farm. Their efforts and determination have resulted in winning a number of quality awards and securing contracts for the Cavanagh brand with major supermarket chains and the hospitality sector throughout Northern Ireland.”

Welcoming the Minister to Cavanagh Eggs, Eileen and John Hall said: "We're delighted to have the Minister with us today to discuss how we've grown our business. Following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 we decided to diversify from beef and sheep. We explored various options and decided to produce free range eggs. In 2012 we launched the Cavanagh brand with the help of CAFRE's diversification programme. The business continues to grow from strength to strength, winning many awards and we continue to explore new markets."

Miss McIlveen then travelled to Balcas Timber Ltd where she met met the forestry and manufacturing team to discuss sustainable development and partnership working between Government and industry.

balcas timber photo
DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen visited Balcas Timber Ltd in Co. Fermanagh to discuss partnership working with Forest Service and how it underpins sustainable development and supports jobs in rural areas.

Balcas has grown from a small family firm, established in Enniskillen in 1962 and handling a few thousand cubic metres (m³) of timber, to an international company consuming over 500,000 m³ at its Enniskillen site and directly employing 280 people and providing employment for 300 more in associated harvesting and haulage.

The Minister commented: “What I have seen today here at Balcas is very impressive. Their development and integrated use of wood products produced by forests is the result of closer and innovative partnership working between industry and Government.

“This is a clear example of what can be achieved, improving the economics of the forestry sector and underpinning sustainable development, especially in rural areas, and creating jobs for rural dwellers. Balcas is clearly at the forefront of generating renewable energy using wood fibre from forests to produce electricity for industrial consumption and supplying wood pellets for the domestic fuel market.”

Brian Murphy, Balcas CEO, accompanied the Minister on her tour and said: “We are delighted to welcome Minister Michelle McIlveen to our plant in Fermanagh. Our work here is a real-life manifestation of the way Government policy and private enterprise can interact so as to provide long term skilled jobs, whilst simultaneously contributing to rural prosperity and sustaining our environment.”

Notes to editors: 

1. Cavanagh Eggs is a family business run by husband and wife John and Eileen Hall in the town land of Cavanagh near Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh.

2. Initially established on a beef and sheep farm in 2002 the business has expanded steadily and now John and Eileen produce approximately 13 million eggs per year.

3. Until February 2012 all Cavanagh Eggs were sent to a local egg packing station. In March 2012 Halls launched the Cavanagh Free Range brand and set up their own packing centre to grade, pack, market and deliver their own eggs.

4. Cavanagh Eggs have won a number of awards for their products including:

 - Two stars in the Great Taste Awards 2016,

 - Irish Quality Food Award category winner 2015,

 - One star in the Great Taste Awards 2014,

 - Show Make Eat Drink Award for ‘Best Artisan/ Micro Food Producer 2016’,

5. Balcas is the largest single site saw mill on the island of Ireland and is the largest wood pellet manufacturer in the UK and Ireland. Current turnover is circa £100million.

6. Balcas operates from its sawmill site near Enniskillen, an architectural moulding factory in Kildare and renewable energy plants in both Enniskillen and Invergordon. These plants have a combined output of over 250,000 m3 sawn timber, 10,000,000 linear metres of mouldings, 11.3 MW of electricity and 155,000 tonnes of wood pellets.

7. Follow DAERA on Twitter: @daera_ni

8. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email:

9. Please note that the out of office hours pager number has changed. Any queries, please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned. 

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