Moroccan Argan Oil: Out of Africa and Around the World
Last Updated: January 24th, 2019
Moroccan argan oil has, in just under two decades, become one of the hottest beauty products for hair, skin, and nails in the entire world. But how has this affected the people of Morocco, the only location in the world where authentic Moroccan argan oil can be produced? How has this tiny country adapted to the global exposure? Are things better or worse? And how will things change in the future? Keep reading to find out.
The Commercial Explosion of Moroccan Argan Oil
Back in 2007, there were a grand total of two mainstream beauty products which boasted Moroccan argan oil as an active ingredient in their formula. Just four years later in 2011, there were over 100 products incorporating argan oil into their list of ingredients. Just one liter of pure, authentic Moroccan argan oil is said to retail for as much as $300. Based on the popularity of argan oil today, that number could be well over one thousand (if not higher). Are all of these products using authentic, organic argan oil? Or are they fudging the truth to take advantage of Moroccan argan oil's popularity? It's hard to say for sure. But one thing you can count on is the fact that argan oil is extremely popular, and for good reason.
The commercial explosion of argan oil is not just economically beneficial for Morocco. High demand for argan oil couldn't come at a better time for the argan tree. It has slowly been creeping closer and closer to extinction over the years, with the average number of trees per hectare decreasing from 100 to a measly 30. But local and global efforts to save the argan forests are swinging into high gear thanks to the commercial explosion of argan oil.
Ramping Up Production of Moroccan Argan Oil
The popularity (and lucrative nature) of Moroccan argan oil is so strong that the government has decided to get involved. They are making an effort to increase the size of the argan forests--which have already been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve--and triple national production of argan oil by the year 2020. If they are successful, Moroccan argan oil production could increase by as much as 4,000 tonnes within the next decade.
Israel is also trying to grow its own argan forests to not only cash in on argan oil production, but help preserve the argan tree. This will be a difficult challenge for Israel, because southern Morocco has the best growing conditions for the argan forests. Time will tell whether the Israeli climate possesses the unique growing conditions necessary for the argan tree to thrive, or whether their endeavor will fail.
One unfortunate bottleneck in the argan oil production process has to do with how labor-intensive it is. Cracking the outer shell of the argan seeds to get at the kernels (which are later processed into argan oil) is difficult, seeing as how the outer shell is over 15 times harder than a hazelnut. The extraction of the kernels has to be done by hand, since a mechanical means of extraction has yet to be discovered. For all anyone knows, mechanizing the process might not actually be possible. But this isn't the worst news in the world, because the manual extraction process has a significant economic benefit for the citizens of Morocco who are expertly trained in how to make Moroccan argan oil.
Moroccan Argan Oil - Is It a Girl's Club?
Argan oil has also been doing good things for women's rights in its home country. Like many developing countries around the world, Morocco is still working towards offering its female citizens equal opportunities when it comes to education and employment. But the rising popularity of argan oil is quickly changing things for the better.
Traditionally, the process by which argan oil is extracted and manufactured was dismissed as "a woman's job". But now that the health and beauty benefits of argan oil are becoming well known on a global scale, this ladies-only manufacturing process is giving the female population of Morocco independent financial stability.
All-female collectives are popping up all over the country in droves. Major companies, such as L'Oreal, are working directly with these co-ops to make sure they source their argan oil responsibly and that the women of Morocco get a fair price for their product and labor. This boon to the incomes of Moroccan women is helping them pay for education for their daughters and increases their overall standard of living.