China Dev. Bank to invest more in African farming

NOUAKCHOTT, Aug 1 (Reuters) - The China Development Bank plans further African farming investments as the continent tries to raise output to curb food inflation and shortages, Governor Chen Yuan told African finance ministers and bankers on Friday.

An oil and commodities boom has brought Africa billions of dollars of investment from China and elsewhere in recent years, but has also contributed to soaring food prices which threaten to make life harder for hundreds of millions of poor Africans.

"China Development Bank is anxious to work in the area of agriculture. Given the current scenario of a great shortage of food and food price hikes I believe African countries should put agricultural development as their top priority," he said.

Addressing the IMF and World Bank Africa Caucus in Mauritania, Chen said African countries should grow cereals as well as cash crops such as rubber and pine, and upgrade their processing capacity to make value added agricultural projects.

"China Development Bank is willing to share its experience and provide financing to agricultural development in Africa," he said.

Africa has become a big investor in Africa's oil sector and other heavy industries like construction in recent years as it secures access to some of the continent's huge oil, minerals and other natural resources to fuel China's fast-growing economy.

The China Development Bank has already granted loans worth several hundred million dollars to agricultural processing companies, mostly in East Africa, Chen told Reuters after delivering his speech.

China's trade with Africa has surged in recent years, reaching $73 billion in 2007, Chen said.

Friday's meeting in Mauritania aimed to agree a common African position on new investors like China, India and Brazil, amid fears that, fresh from multilateral debt relief, African states could land themselves with more unsustainable debt mountains tied to investments in volatile commodities markets. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit:

) (Reporting by Daniel Magnowski; writing by Alistair Thomson, Editing by Peter Blackburn)