Two very different processes are mainly used for the production of argan oil: "mechanical pressure industrial" used by big companies and the unique "traditional manual pressure" practiced by the Berber women cooperatives.
As mentioned by the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), each method has a quite different impact on value creation and therefore the income of the producer members, but also social structures and sustainability of Argan forests.
The Berbers grouped under the women's argan cooperatives remain specialists par excellence in the argan oil, argan oil ZAD are produced exclusively by women who practice the manual pressure. Once harvested the fruit, are left to dry on the roofs of mud houses. After manual removal of the nuts, they are crushed by hand between two stones to remove argan grains. Fruits and grains damaged or rotten are eliminated immediately because alter the taste and quality of oil.
Once the thin protective skin is removed, the grains are lightly toasted, which will give the oil its typical note to nuts. The grains are ground by hand in traditional stone mills. This produces a creamy and smooth paste, which is then kneaded slowly adding small amounts of boiled water. After 30 minutes of continuous mixing, the precious oil slowly dissociates from the rest of the dough.
Each argan tree produces between 4 and 6 kg (8,8 lb and 13,22 lb) of fruit. About 30 kg (66,14 lb) of fruit are needed to produce one liter of argan oil, or about the harvest of 5 trees are needed to produce one liter (33,8 fl. OZ) of oil. Given the hard work to crush nuts and hand pressure, Berber women work almost one and a half day to produce one liter (33,8 fl. OZ) of argan oil pressed by hand. In comparison, it takes between 5 and 10 kg (11 lb to 22 lb) of olives and much less time to produce one liter (33,8 fl. OZ) of olive oil.
Experts estimate that the annual production of argan oil does not exceed 3 to 4 millions liters (0,8 to 1,06 millons gal.) - a very small amount compared to 2800 milions liter (740 millions gal.) of olive oil sold each year. This also explains the high price of the original pressed argan oil by hand and the high esteem enjoyed by this product.