I bet you’d choose working from within the air-conditioned walls of a bank than peeling coconuts in the sun and serving passers-by who request for the fruit – spontaneously or planned. Apanga (pseudonym) is a coconut seller in his late-20s. He is usually stationed right beside a not-too-busy road in Accra, under an old skinny tree where he packs his coconuts, and one by one he peels and sells almost everything between 8am and 5pm each day.
One interesting thing that got our conversation extended beyond the normal vendor-customer chats was his figures. “I sell about 200 coconuts every day” he answered to an obvious question I asked. “Some times, more. At times, less” he added. Responses like these will definitely get any curious mind to probe further.
Apanga sells each fruit for GHc1.50 and makes a profit of 50 pesewas (GHc0.50) on each of the tropical fruit. Apanga buys the fruit from coconut ‘dealers’ who buy from the villages and transport them to Accra for onward sales to vendors or directly from the farmers. Either way, he tells me his cost is estimated at about GHc1 per fruit. He sells on all seven days of the week but chooses one day of the week, usually randomly or based on how tired he is, to rest. You can do the math from here.
Demand for ready-to-consume coconut has somewhat risen, according to him and another seller I verified from, partly due to awareness of its medicinal effects and gradual switch to natural foods compared to inorganic drinks.
Apanga faces some challenges. Rainy days are usually bad for business. He doesn’t work at all when it rains heavily. When the weather is somewhat cool, business is bad as people seldom buy the fruit. Though sunny days are his best days in terms of sales, he has to deal with the hot weather at some hours of the day.
On daily basis, he also deals with ‘normal losses’ in the form of bad fruits that customers reject. Coconuts are fruits you cannot see the contents (flesh and juice) before you buy, even if you’re an expert like Apanga. And so you may end up buying fruits that may turn out ‘unwholesome’. This can be revealed only after the hard shell is broken to access the edible parts. Apanga employs casual workers on need basis.
With at least GHc2,500 profit potential, Apanga should be smiling more than many bankers in their first two years of work, many of whom take home salaries below that amount. He can increase this if he finds another busy spot for his business and employs extra hands.
For some unknown reasons to him, and me, he doesn’t live like one who makes so much money. He speaks like he is barely making a living. But then, if you think of it in the light of a man taking care of himself and other dependents, in the comparatively expensive city of Accra, you may understand.