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Five Extremely Odd Imports

Published: 15 Apr 2014 03:08:53 PST

Happy Friday: we though it was about time that we did another "imports of the weird" entry.

This is always a fun topic for brainstorming around the office since the records of international commerce include quite a few things that one would never expect to find crossing the world's oceans.

Ultimately, we're always reminded that you really can find Ninety Percent of Everything in our cargo containers, according to the title one of our favorite recent books on the shipping industry.


As the FAQ on our Plans & Pricing page states, Fossilized Bat Guano still probably takes the title for the strangest internationally traded item that we know of. That said, we will be happy to sponsor a gift of Rose George's book to the first reader who can suggest a stranger one. (Use the comments below.)

Here are just a few that have been keeping us busy recently:

1. MONKEY CHOW: While unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we haven't found any imports under the HS Code 021091 ("Edible Meat of Primates"), an astute colleague pointed out that we have seen imports for commercial monkey chow. And if you're looking for a good Friday morning digression - yes, humans can live on monkey chow: just watch.

2. OPIUM: Did you know that there's still an opium trade? Raw Indian Opium finds its way onto U.S. shores regularly.

3. UNICORNS: Unicorn Pickles. No, not pickled unicorns, but the good folks at Unicorn Pickles have been users of PIERS TI.

4. MMM, BACON: Those bacon-flavored jellybeans have to come from somewhere. Hong Kong, if you were wondering - in a shipment along with pickle mints, emergency underwear, and folding sporks. We're partial to the California-made draft beer jellybeans, ourselves.

5. CADAVERS: Imported cadavers and human remains sparked quite a discussion in the office. A key part of most medical curricula, Gross Anatomy requires that students work on real human remains - and a good number of those cadavers enter the United States from abroad - in our records the supply seems to come mostly from the Caribbean. See also this article from the New York Times: "The Logistics of the Cadaver Supply Business."

We would love to hear your own stories in the comments. And feel free to try it yourself - a free PIERS Starter account will give you access to search our database by commodity text (limited to weird imports from the last 90 days.) Just tell the boss you're hard at work doing market share reports.

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