The basic ins and outs of banana farming in SA

Banana farming is a profitable business if you’re equipped with the right skills and knowledge. Proper planning is instrumental to the success of any agricultural endeavour, and once the preparation stage is complete, careful implementation is necessary. Visit AgriMag and invest in the equipment you need to farm bananas.

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The importance of banana farming

Bananas are a popular fruit that is cultivated all year round and make up to 75% of the international tropical fruit trade. In South Africa, banana farming makes up a large portion of the subtropical fruit that is being grown.

What are the challenges of banana farming?

A challenge to growing bananas is that there is already enough of this type of fruit available to satisfy local demands. There are many South African farmers who have set up their businesses in Mozambique where the same input expenses deliver higher yields. Another problematic aspect of banana farming is that the fruits produce high amounts of ethylene, which makes them ripen quickly. This results in high wastage.

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Growing bananas

Banana trees are typically planted during December, but you’ll need to get ready for planting by digging holes the month before. A warm climate is required to cultivate this type of fruit. Bananas also need fertile soil to grow. It takes 9 months for a banana bunch to grow. Depending on the cultivator, there are approximately 170 bananas in every bunch.

Choosing a cultivator

Internationally, there are a thousand varieties of bananas growing across 150 countries, and choosing the right cultivator is an important aspect of growing bananas. Cavendish bananas are the most prevalent cultivator internationally. Opt for a cultivar that has a well-established reputation for success. The favourite local cultivator is Williams bananas and they are prevalent in local supermarkets. Williams bananas offer you the advantage of larger yields and bunches. However, the tree is bigger which increases the vegetative growth. Indigenous varieties that can be found growing locally include Luvhele and Mabonde. However, these cultivators aren’t grown by farmers as they’re not popular for eating.

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Carry out a soil analyses so that you can set up a fertiliser program to ensure that the banana trees receive sufficient nutrients. Nitrogen and potassium can be incorporated into the soil each season. Add phosphate to the soil before the trees are planted. Lime can be used to balance the pH if the soil analysis shows that it’s too low.


Harvesting takes place throughout the year, however, the highest yields are picked from November until January when the weather is warmer. Bananas are harvested by handpicking them, which makes harvesting this type of fruit physically demanding because of the weight of each bunch. Since this part of banana farming is labour intensive, it increases the input costs that are required.

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Bananas are ripened using ethylene gas in a controlled environment with high humidity. The un-ripened bananas are placed in a room for the night where ethylene is then pumped in. While people usually eat this fruit when it’s ripe, it can also be converted into other types of food when it’s unripe. The high starch content of the unripe fruit means that it could be made into flour and other products. Overripe fruit can be made into banana bread.

Protect from pests

Bananas are covered with plastic bags to protect them from pests and from the elements. The bags also make the ripening process faster as they trap the ethylene oxide the bananas release. The advantage of banana farming is that these fruits need less protection than citrus or avocados. The major threats to bananas are eelworms and weevil borers. Make sure that you keep a close look out for these pests in your orchards. An infestation of weevil borers can be reduced by putting out traps. You can spray your bananas with Sulphostar to protect them against red spider mite.

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Now that you know more about banana farming, you can start growing this fruit. Looking for durable equipment? Find a range of machines and tools for sale on AgriMag.

The basic ins and outs of banana farming in SA | AgriMag Blog
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The basic ins and outs of banana farming in SA | AgriMag Blog
Banana farming is a profitable business if you’re equipped with the right skills and knowledge. Proper planning is instrumental to succeed.
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