Tainan mangos planted in graveyards: report

By Katherine Wei, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A publication has released photos of mango trees allegedly being planted on graves in Tainan’s Yujing District and claimed that the roots of the mango trees have penetrated the coffin wood below the tombstones. Apple Daily claimed that after investigating the issue it found that many farmers in Yujing — renowned for its cultivation of the fruit — have planted mango trees in local graveyards due to a lack of farmland. The mangos harvested from these grave sites are Irwin mangoes, popular among the Taiwanese. Over 200 tons of this particular type of mango are harvested each year, fetching the farmers NT$5.6 million.

According to Apple Daily, Tainan government officials have confirmed that the practice of planting mango trees on graveyards in Yujing is being carried out.

Tsai Wei-chen, of the clinical toxicology division at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, said despite the fact that the roots of several mango trees have become entangled with the bones of the deceased and that the corpses had rotten away around them, the chances of the mangoes being infected by traces of medication are relatively small. While several market-goers were quoted as saying that they were worried and were now scared of eating mangoes harvested from graveyards, some said that they would eat the fruit regardless of its origins. “The farmers should state clearly where the mangoes are from, then the people can decide to purchase the fruit or not,” said professor Hsiung Tung-chuan from Chinese Culture University. A total of 25,000 tons of Irwin mangoes have been harvested in Yujing so far this year, 1 percent of which is from graveyards, the Tainan Agricultural Bureau said. 47 Years of Graveyard Mangoes Mango farmers began using graveyards as their private farmland 47 years ago, when the Irwin mango variant was cultivated into a better tasting fruit by Taiwanese farmers with an improved appearance. Government officials in Tainan then ordered 90 families farming on the graveyards to sign an agreement, promising to relocate their farmlands in 1976, but the order was never carried out, said Apple Daily. The newspaper said that through an investigations conducted from June to August, the publication learnt that as many as five public graveyards were filled with mango trees tended by local farmers. When interviewed, a farmer surnamed Pan boasted that mangoes planted in the graveyards — which are located in the hills — were sweeter than those planted on level ground as the hillsides prevented rainwater flooding ruining the trees. Five-Year Sentence at Most The Mortuary Service Administration Act does not extend to such cases, said the Tainan City Government, but the farmers may be sentenced to a maximum of five years for claiming government land for their own. The publication cited Tainan official Yeh Chih-ming as saying that regardless of the violation of the law, the mango trees are beneficial in conserving the region’s water and soil, and that it would not be necessary to cut them all down but future cultivation is definitely banned.