DES MOINES, IOWA – Danita Rodibaugh, U.S. Meat Export Federation vice chair and a pork producer from Rensselaer, Ind., attended last week’s World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, and found the outlook among her fellow producers to be both enthusiastic and optimistic.

One major topic of discussion at the conference was international trade, which was highlighted by a visit from Jong Hyun Choi, Minister for Economic Affairs at the South Korean Embassy in Washington, Ms. Rodibaugh said. While at the World Pork Expo, Minister Choi highlighted the importance and urgency of the pending free-trade agreement between South Korea and the U.S.

Ms. Rodibaugh also visited with a team of pork buyers from Mexico that was hosted by U.S.M.E.F. at the World Pork Expo. She noted that the latest pork export statistics (from April 2010, released on June 11) show excellent growth to Mexico despite the recent rise in pork prices. Ms. Rodibaugh also commented on exports to Japan, the U.S. pork industry’s No. 1 market in terms of value.

Exports to Japan slowed in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the past two years, but regained significant momentum in April — beating the April 2009 value total by 8% and the April 2008 value total by more than 25%. Japan is always a very highly competitive market for imported pork, but it may see even more import activity in coming months due to a recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (F.M.D.) in its domestic swine herd.