The GSI Group Inc. welcomes 26 hog producers from Mexico, China and Colombia to the company’s Automated Production Systems manufacturing plant in Taylorville, Ill. The visit to the plant was just one stop of the Illinois Pork Industry tour hosted by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The final destination of the tour is World Pork Expo.
Tom Stuthman, GSI Group Inc. director of North America Protein, says it is an exciting time to be in the swine business. AP, a subsidiary of GSI, manufactures full line equipment for swine producers. Stuthman says, “Profitability wise we have seen better times than what we have seen today. What is really exciting for us —maybe less globally but more U.S. — is the amount of expansion that is being undertaken as result of additional packing capacity coming up.”
He further explains hog profitability is not the driving force behind the U.S. expansion. It is the announcement of four new pork processing plants — at various stages of construction and approval — is the major reason U.S. hog farmers are expanding. Stuthman says, “If we look at how much live production is required to fill those capacities it would require 7.5% increase (based on single shift).”
The pork boom at this point seems to be limited to the United States, especially as China’s pork industry has dispersed more sows than the total U.S. sow herd.
No matter the location of the farm, hog producers are quite concerned with profitability. Mario Godinez, Mexican hog producer, says the biggest challenge is sustaining profitability. As prices fluctuate, it is important to employ different strategies to secure new marketing opportunities. Expansion is on the minds of Mexican hog producers but first the industry needs to sustain profits. Godinez explains, “Mexican industry is growing. We want to grow. From all the things we see over here, we learn and we try to be like the U.S. hog producers because obviously they are more advanced.”
As a hog producer, Godinez, is always looking for ways to improve efficiency on the farm. He recognizes that equipment and quality of the facilities are one area Mexican pig farmers trail U.S. hog producers. Seeing the innovation at U.S. manufacturing plants and the World Pork Expo is energizing to him. As a first-time visitor to World Pork Expo, Godinez is looking forward to seeing what is new. He says, “Pigs are constantly improving and I want to see what is new in the market.”
Zhiwen Liu, vice general manager of the China Resources Ng Fund limited, says the result of the drastic decline in the Chinese sow herd has boosted prices for the Chinese pork industry. CR Ng Fung is one of the largest Chinese food companies and dominates the Hong Kong market and the company has 20,000 sows in three different Chinese providences.
Environmental issues are one of the biggest challenges for Chinese hog producers. Securing simply things like clean water is a struggle. In addition, sustaining a strong labor force is also a continuous challenge for the nation’s hog farms.
As a return visitor to World Pork Expo, Liu is also looking forward to seeing the new technology and fresh genetic packages. Reflecting on the U.S. hog industry Liu jokes, “Of course, there are lots we can steal from the United States.”
World Pork Expo, set to begin tomorrow at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, offers innovation, networking and education as more than 20,000 pork producers and ag professionals from 48 countries will attend the exhibition at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.