The process of extracting the oil from the prickly pear fruit is a lengthy operation which can take 3 or 4 days and is taken care of, managed and organised by Moroccan women at co-operatives.
The prickly pear fruits are picked, which in itself is a time consuming process as this is a manual job. Each worker can pick between thirty and fifty crates of fruits each morning during the season which runs for about six months from July through til December. Gloves are usually worn for protection against the cactus spikes. The fruits are gathered up and loaded into crates which are then taken back to the factory.
When the fruits have arrived at the factory they are then washed and peeled, after which, they are ready to be loaded into the machine where the flesh is seperated from the seeds. The flesh does not go to waste but is instead used to make jam. The prickly pear seeds are then cold pressed and the extracted oil is filtered to ensure that it remains pure. When this long process is complete, the oil is then ready to be bottled and shipped out to countries all over the globe.
It is worth noting that just 12% of the prickly pear's composition is made up of seeds, so it takes approximately half a ton of these fruits to produce just one litre of the prickly pear cactus oil as each prickly pear seed contains just 5% oil. Add in the labour costs involved, and you get the most expensive beauty oil in the world!
Benefits To The Economy
The fruit of the prickly pear cactus has become an essential part of the local Berber economy in Morocco especially for the female run co-operatives, which have created more jobs and independence for local women.
For over 10 years now, all sorts of oils have been produced in these co-operatives, that have received financial aid from local and foreign governments, grants and other non government organisations. The co-operatives are designed to give financially disadvantaged women who may be uneducated, illiterate or live in in remote areas of Morocco, more financial independence and security, enabling them to live a better life.
A Growing Industry
Demand for the prickly pear oil and products containing the oil has grown because of its amazing regenerative properties which has caught the attention of cosmetic companies worldwide. Not only that, the plant is also said to aid high blood pressure and cancer. It seems the prickly pear cactus or the aknari as it is known to the Berber people, is proving to be a bit of a gold mine with the recent media coverage regarding the remarkable effects of the oil when used on hair, skin and nails.