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The rise of merchants

The rise of merchants

This scene shows Chinese merchants cultivating bananas and negotiating with European traders

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Chinese merchants sold a variety of produce. These Chinese merchants are cultivating bananas and negotiating terms with European traders.

Chinese traders

Not all Chinese immigrants were gold miners. Many of the merchants who had started businesses on the main streets of Sydney and Melbourne during the gold rushes were involved in the expansion of the import and export trade between Australia, Hong Kong, Guangzhou (Canton) and Shanghai.

Chinese traders established lucrative markets for bananas in Sydney, Melbourne and many country towns, and some expanded their enterprises by establishing banana plantations in Fiji. These Chinese merchants were highly regarded by the European community for their excellent business sense and reputation for honesty. Three such merchants were Mei Quong Tart in Sydney, and Lowe Kong Meng and Louis Ah Mouy in Melbourne. Chinese traders dominated the banana market until the First World War. Today, they still retain about 10 per cent of the banana trade.