Monday, August 17, 2009

Moroccan Argan Oil - a growth industry

Earlier this year, The View from Fez reported on the making of argan oil in Fez, where some local businesses were giving demonstrations of the ancient techniques employed. (See story here: Argan Oil in Fez.

You will also find an Argan oil recipe here: Chicken Salad with Almonds, Mango and Argan Oil

The popularity of Argan oil is on the increase, with many travel and cooking writers featuring it. One of the latest is the Christian Science Monitor. Here is an excerpt...

For centuries, the Berber people of south-west Morocco have used oil from a tree endemic to the region as a staple food and in traditional medicines.

In recent years, there’s been increasing demand for oil from the argan tree in Western countries, where it’s used by gourmet chefs, and by cosmetic companies which claim it has antiaging and restorative properties. Now the Moroccan government is hoping to triple production of argan oil by 2020, from the current level of around 100 tons a year.

It’s hoped that poor rural women in particular would benefit from expansion of the argan oil industry in an arid region with few industries and employment prospects. The trouble is, the slow-growing argan tree is already listed as an endangered species, presenting scientists with a huge challenge to avert over-exploitation.

Argan oil comes from the two to three kernels found inside the pit of the oval-shaped green fruit of the tree. Traditionally, it is women who crack the pit, lightly roast the kernels, then pound and knead the resulting paste to extract the oil.

Using traditional methods, 2 pints of oil requires about 220 lbs. of fruit, and up to about 20 hours of work in one of about 25 women’s cooperatives set up in the region since 1996. Some of the co-ops have introduced a degree of mechanization that reduces the amount of manual labor required.

Others, however, such as the Marjana Cooperative near the Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira, prefer to maintain traditional methods to maximize employment. As the Marjana Co-op’s production rose from 1.5 tons in 2006 to 3.4 tons last year, the number of women employed full time almost doubled to nearly 50 workers.

For many women, it is their first paid job, and they can earn up to about $280 a month – a good sum in a region where many people live below the poverty line.

See full story here; Morocco: Demands rise on argan tree

More information on argan oil in Morocco.

1400 hectares of argan to be planted
Argan oil from Morocco
Argan oil extravaganza in Fez
Moroccan argan oil faces cloudy future
Argan oil recipe
Moroccan Truffles.


Anonymous said...

please, is possible to know exactly where is the shop (near Pl.Seffarine and the tanneries, but, to find it is easy?

Marc said...

I took a side trip from Marrakech to Essouira by taxi a year or so ago & the driver pulled over at the Marjana co-op site for what I figured was the obligatory info-mercial. I ended up being fascinated by the whole scenario but was left with a vague wondering as to whether or not the women working there were being exploited or not, in effect being paid nothing while the owners saw the profits. Nice to see that it has provided the local women with a livable income. Great post. Thanks.

Marc (Chicago)

Anonymous said...

I've heard someone say that Argan trees were planted somewhere in Europe with plans on producing the oil there and they did not succeed. So this is definitely a Moroccan product and most likely always will be. Nice to have something other countries can't mass-produce and drive the prices down.