BASIL EDWARD TEO
Farmers in Sallaghari on the outskirts of Bhaktapur irrigate their paddy fields (above) with pumped ground water on Wednesday. After a weak start, the monsoon’s progress across Nepal has been blocked by a persistent westerly front. Meteorologists in India have predicted a late and erratic monsoon season, which will impact food production, economic growth and drive inflation. Although it is expected to start raining again in Kathmandu during the weekend, farmers in large parts of Nepal will not be able to observe paddy planting day on 29 June -- also the day President Ram Baran Yadav will be formally presenting the government’s annual plan to parliament. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, undergoing tests for suspected cancer in New York, has asked Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam to officiate. Forecasters haven’t said yet that the monsoon has failed, but deficient and late rains will have a significant impact on the economy in a country where nearly 80 per cent of farms are rain-fed.