Traders in shea butter say sales have declined this harmattan season, compared to previous years.

Though the severity of the harmattan has declined in recent years, some traders say they are losing customers to chemically-formulated butter.

Declining demands for shea butter pose a worry to traders
Salamatu Abdallah

Forty-three-year-old Salamatu Abdallah has been selling shea butter since age 5.

She has observed the severity of the harmattan season declining over the years, a situation that has adversely affected her sales.

Now, the highest profit she can record in a day is 10 Ghana cedis, compared to the previous 50 cedis a day.

But she is positive sales may shoot up in the next season.

This season’s harmattan was not severe. We made little sales. In previous seasons I could make lots of sales. When sales are good, I can make 50 cedis in a day. But now, the highest sales I make is 5 cedis,” she bemoaned.

There is a growing apathy among traders to venture sales of shea butter.

Declining demands for shea butter pose a worry to traders

The few who are still trading in the commodity in the Central Business District of Kumasi are dispersed.

Salamatu says this trade requires patience.

“Since the reconstruction of the new Kejetia, my colleagues were all driven away. You will hardly find us on the market. Many have stopped the trade. Honestly, this business is not lucrative. If you do not have patience, you can’t do it. Sales do not go so fast,” she said.

Declining demands for shea butter pose a worry to traders

The reduction in demand for shea butter can be due to a decline in the use of raw shea butter for skincare.

Whilst people say it darkens their complexion, others fear it causes acne.

Though they testify of its authenticity, a number of people have switched to the use of chemically formulated body butter.

“I have used raw shea butter all my life. However, people advised me to switch to processed shea butter. It has really helped me,” she said.

Declining demands for shea butter pose a worry to traders

Another said “I am allergic to creams but I use it on my children instead. They have become dark and lovely,”

Pimples break out on my face whenever I use raw shea butter. It also darkens my complexion. I have stopped using it,” she said.

Declining demands for shea butter pose a worry to traders

But entrepreneur Michelle Apanga’s case is different. The use of raw shea butter helped in treating her and her son’s skin conditions.

This made her venture into the business of adding value in processing raw shea butter.

“My son developed a skin condition that reddened his skin. I tried all creams and lotions but to no avail. My grandmother suggested I use raw shea butter and neem oil. I did and the blisters and skin reddening disappeared. After giving birth, I even used it myself.

“People inquired what worked for my son. They wanted samples of the neem oil and raw shea butter. Therefore, I decided to add value to it and make it a business. That is how the company Laam Shea came about,” she said.

Declining demands for shea butter pose a worry to traders

Michelle is now a strong player in the cosmetic industry. She gives insight into how traders can better their shea butter trade.

“When you visit the market, the raw shea butter is left uncovered. Water is sprinkled on it. Flies and bacteria settle on it. That should not be the case.

“The traders can work on their packaging. Fragrances and other natural healthy skincare products can be added. It is all about education and their willingness to learn more to better their trade,” she advised.