CP maize contract farming in Shan State, Myanmar: A regional case of a place-based corporate agro-feed system

18 May 2015
Paper

The Bangkok-based Sino-Thai company Choern Pakard Group (CP Group), Asia's largest and most prominent agro-food/feed corporation, has led an industrial maize contract farming scheme with (ex-)poppy upland smallholders in Shan State, northern Myanmar to supply China’s chicken-feed market. Thailand, as a Middle-Income Country (MIC) and regional powerhouse, has long-tapped China’s phenomenal economic growth and undersupplied consumer demand.

The study presented demonstrates how changes in multi-scalar political economies and subsequent agro-food/feed systems creates concomitant effects on rural smallholder producers linked into the globalising of production-supply chains. Thailand’s agribusiness sector ‘going out’ aimed to reduce domestic input production costs, supported through neoliberal regional investment and trade policies and crafted behind closed doors by CP executives.

Since then, the ethnic minority-populated uplands of Shan State have become a major CP maize production zone for China’s market. This has triggered a historically significant agrarian transformation in Shan State, from low-input subsistence economies to cash cropping of high-input, company-owned seeds for export to foreign markets.

The CP maize smallholder production scheme tends to trigger differential socio-economic outcomes and redistribution of wealth within the village. The differential dispossessory outcomes is shaped by differences in village-level household capital, lack of smallholder access to affordable rural finance, ethnic Chinese migrations, and (il)licit border economies tied to Cold War-era politics.

The particularity of places, such as differences in their political history, migrations, agro-ecology, geography, and relationship to the opium economy, also influences the dynamics of village- and household-level differentiation of wealth due to CP maize cultivation in Shan State.

This paper therefore showcases, through empirical village-level field research, how the corporatisation and regional-/globalisation of the chicken feed market has radically transformed agrarian relations and structures of debt and dispossession in rural, upland Shan State.

 
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