• Cyril Sauzier Farm Manager of Green Gold Farm. (SBS)
Western Australia exports up to 80 per cent of its agricultural production. The industry is also a target for foreign investment. So what happens when you combine the two? One farmer sold his property to Chinese buyers and says it's the best business decision he's made.
SBS Small Business Secrets
1 Sep 2017 - 11:48 AM  UPDATED 30 Jan 2018 - 10:11 AM

Two hours north of Perth in Gingin lies Green Gold Farm. Across 300 hectares 50,000 olive trees are ready to harvest.

Cyril Sauzier has been a farmer for more than 40 years, but only recently so in Australia.

The farm manager migrated to WA from Zimbabwe in 2002, after pro-Mugabe forces took over his sugarcane farm.

"I named it Green Gold Farm because olives are green and I was hoping to get some gold out of it! It's also the natural colours of Australia," Mr Sauzier told SBS.

After some successful harvest seasons, Mr Sauzier hit hard times again and says he put Green Gold Farm up for sale in 2014.

"It's very easy to be a successful farmer on paper," Mr Sauzier said.

"But then when you've got to actually put that into reality and you've got to farm, and you've got the weather, and you're depending on so many factors to succeed."

That's where Mr Li and Mr Yang entered the equation.

The business partners from China and Taiwan were on the hunt for an Aussie olive farm.

They purchased Green Gold but wanted Cyril to stay on as farm manager.

"It's very easy to be a successful farmer on paper." 

It's been a fruitful arrangement, with Cyril continuing to work on the property and oversee the production of olive oil that's exported by Mr Li and Mr Yang as the brand, Auganic Oil.

It's marketed and sold in Taiwan, Malaysia and China - but not in Australia. It's expected to turnover $1 million by next year.

Growing demand for premium food products in China, Japan

Western Australia's Farms are a particularly attractive option for investors looking to learn from the locals.

The Australia China Business Council WA President, Adam Handley said cooperative joint ventures are becoming increasingly common.

"It's a fantastic model and allows the Australian farms, many of whom are still mum and dad owned, to retain their long-term interests in farming land," Mr Handley said.

Australian olive oil, and indeed other products like wheat and wine, have found a strong market overseas as China's middle-class booms.

Mr Sauzier says the quality of the Australian products is what draws the overseas interest.

"They bring the bottles here, they bring the labels, we bottle it in Australia. And they feel that when it goes to the shelf in China or Taiwan and it says "bottled in Australia" there is a security behind it I believe," Mr Sauzier said.

Post-mining boom, the WA agriculture and food sector remains a significant source of employment, providing jobs for more than 30,000 West Australians.

At Green Gold Farm, foreign ownership has brought stability for Cyril and his local workers.

Adam Handley says small and medium sized businesses should seek external advice when looking to tap into overseas markets.

"Whether that's technical advice, financial, legal or cross-cultural advice," Mr Handley said.

"If you're a small business you need to partner up with the right people who can support you in those markets."

Farm manager Cyril has no plans to retire anytime soon and will be working with Mr Li and Mr Yang on a second property as their olive oil ambitions grow.

"That's why we buy a bigger olive oil farm, 350 hectares and we can plant more trees, maybe 300,000, to supply to the whole world!" Mr Young said.

An olive tree's average lifespan is 500 years, making 300,000 trees quite the investment.

"I couldn't see myself waking up in the morning with nothing to do," Mr Sauzier said.

"No, this is great, I love it."

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