Page last updated at 18:40 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 19:40 UK

Islamic bank to give food help

Senegal farm
Senegal is expected to receive funds from the Bank.

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is to give poor, predominantly Muslim countries, $1.5bn (750m) to help deal with the global food crisis.

It says it will share the money between some of its least developed member states, which are mainly in Africa.

The Bank says the cash is not intended as emergency aid to deal with shortages of food or rising prices.

But it will be used to buy seeds and fertiliser for farmers as well as to fund research into improving yields.

"Some money will be spent for research in order for [farmers] to improve the way they are doing their agriculture," the Bank's President, Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali, told the BBC World Service.

Controversial crops

He said he would be "happy" for some of the cash to be spent on research into genetically-modified (GM) crops.

GM food is controversial, but some countries, such as Uganda, are warming to the idea.

Countries which are likely to benefit from the IDB handout include Senegal, Mauritania and Yemen.

In many countries the planting season is almost over and that worries the head of the Food and Agricultural Organisation, Jacques Diouf.

"We have to mobilise all resources at our disposal so that the farmers can obtain the seeds," he said.

The FAO has told rich countries that they must increase crop yields and tear down trade barriers in order to help the world's hungriest nations.

At a summit sponsored by the United Nations in Rome, the UN said it would provide an additional $1.2bn of food aid for the 60 nations hardest hit by rising costs.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has said $15bn-$20bn will be needed every year to boost food production to combat hunger.

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