Argan tree ( Argania spinosa ) grows endemically only in the semi-desert areas of south-western part of the Kingdom of Morocco. It is able to thrive in inhospitable environments. It survives in extreme temperatures, resists to drought and grows in poor soil conditions. It can live more than 200 years.
The areas where the Argan trees grow are protected since 1999 by the UNESCO as a Moroccan national wealth because the argan tree is currently endangered. These trees play an important role in environment and food chain. They are able to adapt to the poorest conditions and still provide a quality fruit.
Argan oil production belongs almost exclusively to Berber women who are reaping the nuts of Argania tree and get the oil out of them. The traditional handmade production process requires to remove the nut shell and extract the seeds. To get the oil, seeds are cold pressed with stone grinder. It is a very intense and laborious process. To produce 1 liter of oil, almost an entire day of work is needed.
In the southern regions of Morocco, there is great poverty and inequality in the traditional social status of women and men. Argan oil production has improved the living and working conditions of Berber women due to its popularity and growing demand around the world.
Women are organized in communities where their working hours are adjusted in order to allow them to continue caring for their families. They receive fair wages and have good working conditions. This improves both social and economic status of women. Last but not least, it helps protecting otherwise endangered Argan forests.
There are two main reasons why oil from nuts of Argania is so expensive. One of them is the fact, that it comes from a currently threatened tree, found only in a few places in the Kingdom of Morocco. The second reason is the large amount of work needed to obtain a small amount of oil. Other reasons that determine its high price are its unique nutritional, medicinal and cosmetic effects compared with other oils and natural products.