Nutmegs [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Muskatnüsse
English Nutmeg
French Noix de muscade
Spanish Nuez moscada
Scientific Semen myristicae of Myristica fragrans
CN/HS number * 0908 10 ff.

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Nutmeg is the seed kernel, removed from its husk and seed covering (aril), of the cultivated evergreen nutmeg tree of the Myristicaea family, native to the Moluccas. The oval nutmegs have a reticulately wrinkled surface and are 2 – 3.5 cm long and up to 2 cm thick. The tissue of the seed kernel is yellowish, with dark strands passing through it which contain the essential oil.

The term spice is used to refer to plant parts which serve to improve the odor and flavor of foods. They contain essential oils and other ingredients which have a strong seasoning action.

Spices are processed, cleaned, graded and carefully packaged for overseas dispatch in the countries where they are cultivated. They are dried to preserve them for transport and storage. In consumer countries, they are delivered to spice mills, where they are cleaned and graded again, ready for sale in unground or ground form.

Spices are classified by the plant parts used:

Fruit and seed spices (e.g. pepper, cardamom, nutmeg)
Bud and flower spices (e.g. cloves)
Bark spices (e.g. cinnamon)
Root spices (ginger, turmeric)
Leaf spices (bay leaf)

Nutmegs are divided into the following varieties:

Siauw or East Indian nutmeg, West Indian nutmeg: gray-brown, rounded oval, limed or unlimed seeds, 26 – 35 mm long, diameter 15 -24 mm
Papua nutmeg: gray-brown, elongate oval, limed or unlimed seeds, up to 35 mm long, diameter 10 – 18 mm
„shriveled“ nutmeg: gray-brown, rounded oval, unlimed, highly wrinkled seed with internal cavities

Oil content:

6 – 10% essential oils, in particular myristicin, elemicin [1]
up to 40% fatty oils (nutmeg butter) [1]

Quality / Duration of storage

Nutmegs (Siauw variety) from the Banda Islands (group of islands in the Moluccas) are the highest grade. Of lower value are the nutmegs (Papua variety) from the New Guinea region.

Nutmegs are traded commercially under the following additional names:

„defectives“ are damaged nutmegs
„shrivels“ are shriveled nutmegs, i.e. they are very wrinkled and have internal cavities
"BWP-Ware" bedeutet: B = broken (gebrochen), W = wormy (wurmig), P = punky (schäbig)
insect-infected nutmegs, coated with lime to improve their appearance

The molds growing on moldy goods may include Aspergillus flavus, which produces the toxic substance aflatoxin.

Provided that the recommended storage conditions are complied with, nutmegs may be kept for > 12 months.

Intended use

Nutmegs are an important spice and are used domestically (for seasoning soups, sauces, vegetables, meat and fish dishes), for sausage products, in baking, for liqueur production, in the food industry and for the production of essential oils.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Photo, nutmeg

Figure 1
Drawing, nutmeg

Figure 2

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Africa Egypt
Asia Indonesia (Siauw/Ambon, Ternate), Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea
America West Indies (Grenada, Trinidad, St. Vincent), South America

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Nutmegs are packaged in, among other things, boxes and double-layered jute fabric bags (75 – 90 kg).

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Symbol, general cargo

General cargo

Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad

Container transport

Standard containers may be used, subject to compliance with lower limits for water content of goods, packaging and container flooring.

Cargo handling

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since this may lead to mold and spoilage. The goods develop a foul smell and crumble.

Hooks must not be used in handling bagged goods as they subject the bags to point loads, so damaging them. Due to their shape, plate or bag hooks apply an area load and are thus more suitable for handling bags.

Stowage factor

2.58 – 2.97 m3/t (double-layered jute fabric bags, 88 kg) [1]
1.09 m3/t (jute bags from Indonesia) [1]
1.67 – 1.81 m3/t (large boxes) [11]
1.81 – 1.95 m3/t (small boxes) [11]
2.27 – 2.55 m3/t (boxes from Indonesia) [14]
2.69 m3/t (85 kg bags from Africa) [14]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, good ventilation


Fiber rope, thin fiber nets, wooden dunnage

Cargo securing

In order to ensure safe transport, the cargo must be stowed and secured in the means of transport in such a manner that it cannot slip or shift during transport. If loss of volume and degradation of quality are to be avoided, the packages must not be damaged by other articles or items of cargo.

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Nutmegs require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Favorable travel temperature range: 5 – 25°C [1]

Nutmegs should be transported in areas which exhibit the lowest temperatures during the voyage and are dry. In any event, storage beneath the weather deck or, in the case of shipping in containers, in the uppermost layer on deck, must be avoided as the deck or container is strongly heated by the intense tropical sun and, at temperatures of > 25°C, essential oils may be lost.

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Nutmegs require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 60 – 70% [1]
Water content up to 9% [1]
maximum 9% [15]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content 65% [1]

Spices are hygroscopic goods (hygroscopicity), which interact with the moisture in the air. The risk of mold growth is naturally at its greatest in warm, damp air. Nutmegs should therefore be protected from relative humidities of > 75%, as otherwise mold growth sets in. The product then acquires a foul odor, becomes brittle and crumbles, in many cases merely under manual pressure, causing a considerable loss of value. Severe exposure to moisture may result in a total loss of value.

Nutmegs should be stowed away from goods which are sensitive to moisture/humidity or release moisture (e.g. copra).

In order to prevent condensation on the ship’s side or container walls from affecting the cargo, care should be taken to leave a clear gap between the cargo stack and the ship’s side or container wall.

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RF Ventilation

Nutmegs require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

If the product is at „shipping dryness“, it does not have to be ventilated during transport. However, if the water content does not meet these guidelines, the following ventilation measures should be implemented to eliminate the potential for dampness:

Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate: 6 changes/hour (airing)

In order to avoid formation of mold, the stowage space should be cool, dry and, most particularly, easy to ventilate.

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RF Biotic activity

Nutmegs display 3rd order biotic activity.

They belong to the class of products in which respiration processes are suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed.

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RF Gases

No risk.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

An elevated moisture content and excessively high temperatures create a risk of self-heating.

Oil content:

6 – 10% essential oils, in particular myristicin, elemicin [1]
up to 40% fatty oils (nutmeg butter) [1]

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RF Odor

Active behavior Nutmegs have a strong, pleasant odor.

When transporting spices, it is important to retain the content of essential oils to the greatest possible extent, since these substances, together with other constituents, such as fatty oils, tannins and bitter principles, determine the odor and flavor and thus quality of the spices.

The essential oils are readily volatilized and the seasoning action of the spices is consequently reduced. Volatilization of the essential oils is primarily determined by temperature. The higher is the ambient temperature, the more the essential oils are volatilized, as may be recognized by the intense odor in the hold.

Due to the readily volatilized essential oils, spices should always be stowed separately from each other and away from foodstuffs which readily absorb foreign odors (e.g. coffee or tea).
Passive behavior Nutmegs are highly odor-sensitive.

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Nutmegs do not cause contamination.
Passive behavior Nutmegs are sensitive to dust, dirt, fats and oils.

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RF Mechanical influences

With bagged cargo, point loads applied for example by hooks may result in damage (tears) to the bags and thus in loss of volume. Plate or bag hooks, which, due to their shape, distribute the load and reduce the risk of damage, should thus be used.

Mold-damaged goods may easily crumble under pressure and are thus subject to considerable loss in value.

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

Even after reconditioning, nutmegs which have been subject to mold growth caused by moisture may be contaminated with aflatoxin from the mold Aspergillus flavus, which constitutes a health hazard.

Drawing, Aspergillus flavus

Figure 3

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

The natural drying process of the product may cause loss of weight. In addition, damaged bags may result in loss of volume.

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

Nutmegs are especially susceptible to insect infestation. They are most commonly infested by beetles, e.g. corn sap beetle, merchant grain beetle, red flour beetle. Insect infestation may make the product worm-eaten or hollow, for which reason it should be fumigated prior to loading. These days it is less common to provide a lime coating to repel pests. Sometimes, nutmegs which have already been damaged by insect infestation are coated with lime to improve their appearance. However, this amounts to misrepresentation. Tampering with damaged or insect-eaten goods cannot therefore be ruled out.

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