The number of wealthy Chinese people buying ranches in Australia is increasing. The friendly land prices and rich agricultural resources make Australian ranches a good investment. However, due to policy differences, high labor costs and language barriers among other things, many of these Chinese nationals have become snarled in management difficulties and been forced to sell their properties within two or three years.
One Beijing couple’s story is a testimony to how unpreparedness can lead to trouble. Lei Qing, 52, sold a spacious 110-square-meter apartment in Beijing in order to purchase an AU$800,000, 323-hectare ranch in central Queensland. Lei’s expenses rose to nearly AU$1 million after paying taxes, hiring a manager and more. He made the purchase because he planned to spend an idyllic retirement in Australia.
Unfortunately, despite various plans Lei made for the ranch, fortunes seemed set against him. He had planned to transport powerful fertilizer from China, but Australian law bans the use of fertilizer. He had planned to raise cows to make money selling milk, but the nearest milk-processing facility was located 200 kilometers away. Hiring a driver and workers to transport the milk would cost him AU$1.3 AUD per liter sold. A lack of facilities also forced him to abandon his idea to plant grapes for wine.
What’s more, Lei didn’t anticipate that the local agricultural association would tightly limit the number of cattle he could raise in order to protect the land. He also never imagined that the cost of labor in Australia would be three times that of China.
Forced to find a way to make money, Lei’s wife took on the farm plow herself. She now trims fruit trees, eradicates wild grass, sprays pesticide and covers fruit with plastic to protect it from pests. In her words, she has “endless work,” and no choice but to stick with her tiring routine. The labor exhausts her so much that she uses herbal medicine to relax her muscles at night.
Another disappointment for Lei is the lonely lifestyle.
“The nearest neighbor is 50 kilometers away. That scene of barbequing with friends on a ranch only happens in movies,” remarked Lei. Indeed, Candy, a professional realtor specializing in ranches, said many of her Chinese clients have given up their ranches thanks to unsatisfactory dividends and the isolated lifestyle.