Co Armagh pig producers behind plans for £75m pork plant in Co Antrim

Fertile sow lying on straw and piglets suckling in barn
Ryan McAleer

ONE of the north’s biggest pig producers is behind plans to develop a £75 million automated pork processing plant in Ballymoney, The Irish News can reveal.

The project is centred on the site of the former Malton Bacon factory in Agivey, which was destroyed by fire in June 1998.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council was notified of the plans this week after a proposal of application notice was submitted by Omagh-based accountant Seamus McCaffrey in the name of Bannside Foods.

The company, which was incorporated on Wednesday, is controlled by Co Armagh brothers Jim and Mark Wright of JMW Farms, along with Andrew Irwin.

All three are directors of Dartan Hall Holdings, a holding company for six firms principally controlled by the Wright brothers.

The latest set of accounts filed by the group show it recorded a turnover of £64m in the year ending September 30 2019, producing an operating profit of £3.5m.

According to JMW Farm’s website, the family-owned operation finishes around 7,000 pigs per week. It operates pig breeding farms on both sides of the border and in Britain.

JMW already controls most aspects of the pig production line, including its own growing operation, feed mill, road transport mill and power plant.

Now the company is seeking to develop a massive pork production facility on the former Malton Foods site in Co Antrim, which was once part of the Unigate group.

The site was recently put on the market for £325,000.

Jim Wright previously recalled that JMW had been supplying all its finished pigs to the Ballymoney plant up until it was destroyed in a June 20 1998 blaze.

“This left us with a massive challenge in finding an alternative customer for our finished pigs that were ready for slaughter,” he told the Irish Times.

“We had to work through what were extremely tough trading conditions for a period of two years until the market adjusted to the loss of a major processor.”

Planning drawing of the proposed pork processing plant in Ballymoney.

The documents lodged with Causeway Coast and Glens council describe the proposed facility as a first of its kind food processing plant.

It states the project will involve around £75m of private investment and create between 350 and 400 jobs.

The proposal states thousands more jobs will be supported indirectly by the massive factory.

An eight-week public consultation on the plans is due to begin on May 17.

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