Argan oil is one of the most expensive oils. It costs around $300 for a liter of this oil. It is extracted from the ripe fruits of Argan tree which is endemic to Morocco only. That’s is why it is sometimes called “Red Gold”
This tree is the saviour of Moroccan people. It’s fruits are used to make oil which is used for culinary purposes like sprinkling on the salads. The oil is used now worldwide as a cosmetic products for skin and hair. The tree fights desertification by providing stability to the soil. It is a hardy tree which can tolerate harsh arid conditions.
The oil contains mostly unsaturated fatty acids along with Vitamin E which is good for skin and immunity. It also contains carotenoids.
The oil is extracted by traditional manual methods in vogue for centuries. In this method the self fallen fruits are collected and the flesh is removed. Then the kernels are dried in the Sun.
After drying the seed shells are delicately broken to take out the oil bearing seed. It takes a woman, who traditionally do this work, 24 hours labour for producing 1 liter oil. The seeds are grounded in the traditional method. After this the powder is hand pressed to extract the pure oil. This is also one reason for its high cost.
The leftover cake is used as a feed for the cattle especially goats and sheep. There was another technique that was used sometimes. The goats were left for climbing on the fruit laden tree. They will eat the fruits and the seeds were collected from the droppings. But this is used these only for tourists who enjoy the goats climbing on the tree branches.
To meet the heavy demand from cosmetic industry more trees have been planted. This also serves the purpose of soil conservation. Women have been organised in cooperatives for increased efficiency.