Millions of families are facing acute food shortages and malnutrition, says a report of the World Food Programme ( wfp ), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation ( fao ). The crisis is expected to worsen in coming months for about 200 million people in the country. A severe drought, an economic slump and political turmoil have exposed Indonesia's weak agricultural policy.

Over the past decade, Indonesian agriculture has shown a steady decline. Several experts have criticised the government's policy for ignoring farming in favour of export-oriented manufacturing, big infrastructure projects and costly hi-tech experiments. Bung-aran Saragih, director of the Centre for Development Studies at Bogor Agriculture University, says that Indonesia has ignored its own strength.

In the present economic crisis, senior government officials feel that only agriculture could help rejuvenate Indonesia's weak economy. "Agriculture should be the backbone for future growth,' says Ginandjar Kartasasmita, the co-ordinating minister for economy and finance.

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