(May 3) BALTIMORE — A week after it announced plans to merge with the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Alexandria, Va.-based International Fresh-cut Produce Association showed it can still do just fine by itself.

IFPA’s annual Fresh-Cut Expo, on April 26-29, brought in a record 1,490 attendees, up from 1,354 last year, said Jerry Welcome, IFPA’s president.

Considering that the show wasn’t on the West Coast, which typically draws more people, Welcome said he was happy with the numbers.

“I’m very pleasantly surprised with the turnout, given that it’s on the East Coast,” he said. “We were concerned at first, having the show in Baltimore. I think we did a good job promoting it.”

Under the merger plans, IFPA and United would become the United Fresh Produce Association, pending a vote of both associations’ members. In Baltimore, Welcome said he heard nothing but praise for the merger from show attendees.

The long-term prospects for the Fresh-Cut Expo are up in the air, Welcome said, but as this year’s show made clear, IFPA should have no problem filling seats and booths at its 2007 and 2008 shows, both of which have been booked and will definitely proceed.

“I think this show will continue to grow, especially with the merger,” Welcome said. “This is an event where you can come to get information and see technology. It makes it unique.”

And as IFPA board chairman Mark Miller pointed out at an expo breakfast session, there’s just 5% overlap between exhibitors at IFPA’s and United’s annual shows. This year’s robust attendance, Miller added, attests to the show’s viability.

To help make sure people made the cross-country trek from California to Baltimore, IFPA increased the number of workshops from 14 last year to 21 this year, Welcome said. Workshops covered packaging, work force management, food safety, plant operations and other issues.