Dec 6 - The olive oil industry in North Sinai is suffering from a decline in sales and problems with production as a result of the recent political instability in Egypt and increased activity of militant groups in the area. Joanna Partridge reports
This is how many families in North Sinai have made money for centuries. The peninsula's thousands of olive trees are used to produce olive oil. But in recent months, Egypt's political instability has had an impact on the industry so vital to the region and second only to fishing. Mahmoud Rashed is a farmer. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) FARMER, MAHMOUD RASHED, SAYING: "Olive farming is the most important source of income here in North Sinai, because we don't have anything else. It represents the backbone of our economy." The land is dry - so farmers store fresh water in wells and use electric pumps for watering. That task is becoming increasingly difficult. Power cuts have become common since the 2011 revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, stopping farmers from using their irrigation pumps. Along with the production difficulties, sales are also declining, says the manager of a local olive oil producer. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MANAGER OF 'MAASARET AL-JAZEERA' OLIVE OIL MANUFACTURING COMPANY, ABDELJAHER NASSAR, SAYING: "We've had problems since the curfew was imposed on North Sinai and on the whole nation because we could only work one shift instead of two. Another reason was increased media coverage of the area during the military operations and the reference to North Sinai as a terrorist area, this led to the decrease in buyers of the oil, so stocks of the product have been piling up." In recent months, violence in the region has increased and militant groups have targetted members of the security forces. The olive oil industry has huge potential, but experts say it's being neglected by the Egyptian authorities. And while unrest continues in the area and in Cairo, there's little sign of that changing.