Despite unprecedented challenges in the U.S. pork industry, thousands of pork producers and allied industry exhibitors came together in early June for the National Pork Producers Council’s 21st annual World Pork Expo.

Pork producers are struggling from an extended period of low prices compounded by negative reactions following the April 24 announcement of the H1N1 Flu Outbreak Virus.

The drop in attendance from 2008, estimated at 14,625, was expected, due in part to the H1N1 flu’s impact on international travel.

“With the market conditions, we knew some pork producers would not be able to make the trip this year,” says John Wrigley, World Pork Expo general manager. “But with the addition of the H1N1 virus issue hitting at exactly the time international visitors had to make travel plans, we believe it had a significant impact on international attendance.”

Still, exhibitors indicated pork producers who attended were serious shoppers, looking forward to doing business when profitability changes course.

“Traffic at our booth was down from last year, but the customers who came by were either planning to buy soon or were expecting to make purchases next year,” says Mark Hayden, national sales manager of AP, a division of the GSI Group.”Given the industry challenges, we didn’t have high expectations for traffic, so we were happy to see customers who are looking optimistically toward the future.”

Gate attendance on Friday was nearly double the normal traffic when the final day of the show was held on Saturday, a good indication that the Wednesday through Friday show format was an improvement for both attendees and exhibitors. “We came in on Sunday to get set up,” Hayden says, “so we appreciate being able to be out a day early.”

Positive Breeding Show Support, Sales

With Junior National participation up significantly and some $500,000 in Breed Show sales, the Swine Barn proved a bright spot at World Pork Expo.

Sales this year are up from 2008, a great accomplishment for our industry in light of the challenges we have faced,” says Darrell Anderson, CEO of the National Swine Registry.

The grand champion and top-selling boar was a Duroc consigned by Malcolm Farms of Indiana. It brought $60,000 and was purchased by Hi Point Genetics, Guyer Cattle, JP Enterprises and Newnum, Chrisman, IL.

Next year’s World Pork Expo is slated for June 9-11, 2010 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA.