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Virginia poultry soon will be China-bound

George's Chicken exec: Lifting of 7-year ban on exports will have positive local impact

By Katie Demeria

Virginia lawmakers were recently able to lift a seven-year ban on exporting poultry to China, and many Shenandoah Valley farmers should see the benefits of the action.

Bob Kenney, vice president of George's Chicken in Edinburg, said ban's remove will have "a pretty major impact."

The company, he said, will be able to increase the value of its exported products.

"We won't increase our volume because we're still selling some of those products now, but China is one of the biggest markets, so it allows us an opportunity to upgrade the value of some of those dark meats by 5 cents a pound, and we sell tens of millions of pounds of those products," he said.

Kenney said the ban on exporting poultry to China "was a major detriment to Virginia companies."

China implemented the ban in 2007, according to a news release from Gov. Terry McAuliffe's office. The release notes that the ban was put in place in reaction to "an isolated case of low pathogenic avian influenza reported on a single farm in Virginia."

"Virginia and federal officials contended that China's ban was not justified by scientific data, as the isolated LPAI occurrence did not pose a food safety or poultry health risk," the release stated.

The ability to sell to China, and increase the value of a significant portion of its product, will allow George's to successfully continue an expansion it had already started.

Kenney said George's made the decision this year to expand its production by 4 or 5 percent more product.

"Edinburg has always been extremely successful with our poultry and our ability to get more growers," he said. "We've built into our capacity over the last several years to do that. This is just one part of the picture."

According to the governor's news release, with the ability to sell to China, which was ranked as the No. 1 market for Virginia agricultural exports in 2013, that expansion will likely be even more successful.

"Any time you can take a major portion of your volume and increase the value, it gives you options for more long-term expansion possibility," Kenney said.

That expansion will have a positive impact on those George's employs, as well, Kenney added. Right now, all their farmers work on contracts.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, George's is the 34th largest employer in the valley.

"Being able to expand means we can add more growers, or our current growers get a little more volume," Kenney said. "We've already added some growers to our base."

The news release stated that the poultry industry is Virginia's largest individual sector of the agriculture industry.

"We're just really excited," Kenney said. "I know the state, and our Representative Goodlatte -- all the politicians of both parties -- have worked very hard for the last seven years, and we do appreciate that."

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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