WPX Report: Attendance Tracked, New Days for 2009

IOWA, US - The National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) 20th Anniversary World Pork Expo was held June 5-7 with slightly lower attendance - a fact that comes as no surprise given the tough economic times producers are facing.
calendar icon 20 June 2008
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However, thousands showed up to make the most of the market situation and learn how they can improve their operations in the future.

NPPC has implemented a technology which allows registration of pork producers who attend in order to fine tune the show offerings to the needs of the pork production side of the industry. Producers were also able to pre-register online at a significant cost savings on admission prices.

ThePigSite stand at World Pork Expo 2008
Producers enjoying a beer and relaxing on ThePigSite stand at World Pork Expo 2008

"In the past, all we could do was count the number of tickets used at the gate and those numbers included lots of people other than pork producers," says Bryan Black, president of NPPC and pork producer from Canal Winchester, Ohio. "Now we can better understand what producers would like to see there. As the saying goes, 'if it's about pork production, you'll find it World Pork Expo.'"

NPPC reports that 17,756 pork producers attended the event, a number which does not include exhibitors, staff, state fair workers and others who came through the gates. Producer registration provided unlimited entry into the event for all three days. "This is a much more meaningful number for our industry than we've had in the past," Black says. "The show has evolved over the years and, since this is the 20th anniversary, we thought it was time to bring technology into play and begin measuring the things that are most important to our producers and exhibitors."

More than just a number

Prior to the split between NPPC and the National Pork Board in 2001, World Pork Expo was a more consumer-driven event, Black explains. "Back then, the goal was to get as many people in the door as we could, so they could sample pork products and learn how to cook pork for their families.

"Today, the focus has shifted to professional pork production, offering producers an opportunity to meet with exhibitors and learn ways to improve their efficiencies, expand their knowledge of technical advances and interact with their peers," he says. "We know that those who attend are the right fit for the show."

"I think we did have a little lower producer attendance than the last couple of years from what we could gauge," Black says. "Pork producers in the U.S. are experiencing very tough economic times right now and I'm sure some just felt they couldn't make the trip. We look forward to having them back again next year."

In fact, producers attending World Pork Expo heard from both University of Missouri professor emeritus, Glenn Grimes, and Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics, that with the convergence of current market pressures, the soonest pork producers will see some light at the end of the economic tunnel is by early 2010 - about 18 months from now.

Weather also played a part in hindering attendance. "Weather conditions have just wreaked havoc across the country this year, so those farmers who could stay home and get into the field chose to do so," he adds.

Strong exhibitor showing

The 2008 World Pork Expo showed an increase in exhibitor booth spaces, with many of the exhibitors renting multiple booth spaces in the Varied Industries Building and the Cattle Barn as well as outdoor exhibits and hospitality tents.

"The increase in booth spaces tells us that allied industry appreciates the focus on pork producers," Black says.

A new exhibitor at World Pork Expo, Agri-Business Solutions, a Peoria, Ill.,-based financial consulting firm, intends to be back in 2009. "We were so impressed with the caliber of attendees the show draws," says Darren Frye, president, "that by the middle of the first day we were brainstorming ways we could have an even bigger presence here next year."

International exhibitors were on the increase, with companies traveling from Canada and Mexico as well as South America, Europe and Asia, to take part in the show. An estimated 10 percent of the producer attendees at the show were international visitors as well, coming from at least 45 different countries around the world.

In addition, World Pork Expo Junior National hog show organizers reported that, while they anticipated a drop in participation for their show, they realized a 20 percent increase in participation.

New Days for 2009 World Pork Expo

Further enhancing the ability to draw a professional pork production audience, NPPC has moved the days for World Pork Expo from Thursday, Friday and Saturday to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for 2009.

"Because we now draw a much more focused professional pork production audience, we've decided to make it easier for producers and exhibitors to participate in the show and still get home to spend their weekends with their families," Black explains. "We've been moving toward this change for a number of years and, as with the producer registration, the 20th anniversary year seemed like an opportune time to make the switch to a week-day oriented show."

Dates for the 2009 World Pork Expo are June 3, 4 and 5, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines.

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