A delegation of about 20 Iowans representing government, business and agriculture is in the Philippines now, after almost a week in Vietnam. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds is leading the trade mission and spoke with Iowa reporters this morning via teleconference.

“We’ve had a very productive trip,” Reynolds says. “The mission has really been to strengthen relationships and existing partnerships and look for economic opportunities between the state of Iowa and what we consider are two growing countries in Asia, and that’s Vietnam and the Philippines.”

Iowa pork is exported to 34 nations, but trade with the Philippines alone rose last year by 16-percent. Reynolds says about 75-percent of the diet of Vietnamese people revolves around pork products, so she sees great opportunities in both nations.

“The trade mission really has been dual-track, it’s had two components,” Reynolds says, “one that’s been centered on the promotion of Iowa pork and agricultural exports and the other has been centered on Iowa businesses that are seeking to expand trade and sales in these two growing countries.”

Among the ag industry leaders on the trip, Greg Lear is president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. In response to a question about the Vietnam War decades ago, Lear says they’ve encountered only smiles and no hostility.

“We’ve been welcomed with open arms,” Lear says. “It doesn’t matter if we’re in Vietnam in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City or here in the Philippines, we are welcomed and we haven’t run into anybody that we haven’t been able to communicate with. It’s interesting what Iowa has to offer both to Vietnam and the Philippines.”

Lear says most people they encountered in Vietnam don’t even remember the war, which they refer to as the American War. He says the average age in Vietnam is 27 to 28, while 55-percent of that nation’s population is under the age of 40.

Lear says there are markets in Asia that place high value on parts of the pig that are largely ignored by American consumers, including the feet, snouts, tails and ears. In particular, he says the pig’s ear drum is a delicacy there.

“It sure appears that this is our opportunity to start laying the foundation for long-term relationships,” Lear says. “We look forward to seeing what is built on top of this exciting opportunity that we had to come to the Philippines and Vietnam and see what is going on in these countries.”

The delegation left Des Moines last Thursday and is due to return on Saturday night.