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Milk mega farms and the new agrarian capitalism: the multiple dimensions of the current socio-technical transition in Vietnam

Duteurtre G., Bonnet P., Cesaro J.D., Hostiou N., Nguyen Mai Huong, Pham D.K., Pannier E.. 2019. Hô Chi Minh-Ville : IRASEC, p. 1-18. International conference: ¿Rethinking Asian Capitalism and Society in the 21st Century¿, 2019-11-07/2019-11-08, Hô Chi Minh-Ville (Viet Nam).

In the last 30 years, the Vietnamese dairy sector has gone through a deep transformation. We use the concept of ¿sociotechnical transition¿ to capture the multiple dimensions of these changes that reflect the renovation of Asian capitalism and society. Our research comprises a multi-disciplinary long term field study conducted in Hanoi Province, as well as an analysis of national regulations and secondary databases. Based on that, we identify different sociotechnical regimes that govern the dairy sector for a given period. Those regimes are defined as coherent sets of practices, techniques and social rules. From the Doi Moi reforms up to the mid-2000s, the development of Vietnamese dairy production was dominated by the complementarity between small peasant farms, private milk processors and public sector services. We propose to qualify this timeframe as a ¿peasant¿ sociotechnical regime. In the late 2000s, however, this regime ran up against questions concerning the underlying food model, mainly due to its dependence on imported milk powder. Following the 2008 melamine health crisis linked to imports from China, Vietnam entered into a ¿corporate¿ dairy development regime which gives more space to agro-industries and capitalist logics. This change of direction profoundly changed the outcome of the "transition". The emergence of mega farms holding several thousand cows reflects this change of direction pushed to the extreme. Mega farms reflect the importance of financial capital and high technologies in the transformation of Vietnam's agricultural economy. The new socio-technical regime also relies on a social construction of new food models concerned with ¿health safety¿. But the rise of this ¿corporate¿ regime is constraint by the fact that the State, who formally owns the land, tends to preserve land-use rights for smallholder farmers. This situation results in a coexistence of the 2 sociotechnical regimes, rather than in the replacement of one by the other.

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