The Argan Extraction Process
In an effort to preserve the quality of argan oil on the market and control the rights to the usage of the argan name, Morocco has a plan to instigate a protected geographic indication for argan oil coming from the argan region in the South of Morocco. Part of its efforts includes organizing and educating the women of the cooperatives in proper extraction techniques, including the proper harvesting, drying, and cracking of the nuts. The entire process is briefly outlined here:
1. Nuts are gathered from the ground during the summer months. If the nuts are picked from the tree, they will not be ripe enough and will produce an inferior quality oil. Nuts should have the exterior pulp in tact, as otherwise it is an indication that they have been predigested by goats.
2. The gathered nuts are left to dry in the sun for one month, turning frequently to protect against humidity.
3. The nuts are then stored in a cool, dry place until they are ready for cracking.
4. Nuts are depulped manually or by machine, then cracked using traditional methods. To extract the almond, the women hit the argan nut against a rock with the help of a second, smaller rock. The almonds are then separated from their shells.
5. The almonds are sorted to select for quality, consistency in color and without odor.
6. The cosmetic oil should be pressed by machine to eliminate bacterial contamination. The oil is left to rest before filtering to allow for the oil to separate from any remaining sediment. This sediment forms the “paste”.
Each of these steps is traceable under the new labeling standards. The standardization of the industry will help to stabilize the market for argan oil and ensure fair wages to the women of the argan cooperatives.