Across high Atlas mountains, many places making Argane oil have flourished for the last few years. These collective women-run are popping everywhere after soaring sales around the world. The trees, growing up to 10m (33 ft) tall, are found all over Morocco. In Morocco Argan oil is traditionally used as a foodstuff and as a medicine. The huge growth in sales is propelled by the cosmetics industry using the oil in face creams, lip gloss, shampoo, moisturizers and soaps.
Often called the country’s “liquid gold”, global sales of Argan oil are soaring, helped by studies that suggest it has health benefits. Production, which is almost all from Morocco, is expected to reach 19,623 US tons or $1.79bn (£1.4bn) by 2022 up from 4,836 US tons in 2014.
The traditional way of making the oil has not changed for centuries. That consisted of using two rocks, one large, one small, to smash open the fruit to get to the seeds inside the nuts. Despite the claims of fair treatment, these women have voiced about their pay and work conditions. In a report by BBC, one of the workers said “I want a better job, with a better salary….But there is nothing else. This is my only option.” The article reported that the women workers make less than $221 a month, for from early mornings until evenings, below Morocco’s recommended national minimum wage.
The situation has become such an issue in the country that Morocco’s minister of agriculture asked Zoubida Charrouf, a chemistry professor at Mohammed V University of Rabat for help. Charrouf remarked that some of the companies “prefer to pay taxi and bus drivers to bring tourists to their facilities so that they can sell them the oil, rather than pay the workers properly”.