South Africa produced 402 053 tonnes of bananas in 2016, which is an 8 percent production growth from 372 204 tonnes in 2000. While a notable improvement, this has not kept up with local demand as the country is now a net importer of bananas. South Africa was last a net exporter of bananas in 2014, according to data from Trade Map.

In 2017, South Africa imported 114 913 tonnes of bananas, which is a 50 percent increase from the previous year. This notable upsurge was underpinned by a steady domestic consumption and a decline in (domestic) banana production after the 2015-16 drought.

The leading suppliers were Mozambique, with a share of 82 percent, followed by a share of 9 percent from Swaziland, a share of 6 percent from Ecuador, and a share of 2 percent from Zimbabwe. The balance originated from other countries, which included Zambia, Nigeria and Philippines, amongst others.

This has, however, not gone unnoticed in the domestic banana industry. In December 2017, Farmers Weekly ran an article where Banana Growers’ Association of South Africa raised concerns that increasing banana imports could keep the industry under pressure and possibly lead to job losses.

Overall, the steady domestic banana consumption, and a marginal growth in local production – growing at an annual rate of a percentage point a year between 2000 and 2016 – suggest that imports could continue in the near term.

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