The bulk of banana production in South Africa occurs in the area between Port Shepstone and Port Edward in the KwaZulu-Natal, or "Garden," province. The warmer coastal strip north of Durban is particularly suitable for banana cultivation, with the area north of Mtubatuba/St. Lucia being the most ideal, although cultivation has yet to take hold widely.
Although maize is the staple crop in South Africa, bananas and plantains are an important secondary crop and a staple food in other parts of Africa. Bananas are tropical plants, however, and all of South Africa is sub-tropical. The lack of an ideal climate severely limits production potential. Cold winters can cause "choke-throat" deformities of banana bunches. The cold-hardy "Williams" cultivar is highly recommended for use in cooler subtropical regions. Short cultivars such as "Dwarf Cavendish" should not be grown in cool areas due to their susceptibility to choke throat.
Bananas are an excellent staple food. The energy source in bananas is predominantly from the starches and sugars. During the ripening process the starch levels fall from over 20% to around 1% and the sugars rise from around 1% to over 20%. This high sugar concentration is unusual in a fresh fruit and the banana supplies double the energy per unit mass than the pear or apple.