World Bank lending to food production projects in developing countries rose by 40% to US$2.1bn between July 2004 and June 2005, compared with the previous 12 months.

The bank said $247m was spent on food research and development, $94m on agro-industry, $95m on boosting food markets and trade and $32m on animal production. There was also significant $1bn investment in irrigation, especially in India.

The bank said the spending reversed three years of reduction in World Bank food sector investments. A senior official said: "The prognosis for the future is a sustained level of lending, with further focus on low income countries."