It should be noted that shipments from Madagascar, and to a lesser extent, Indonesia, will be transshipped, either in ports such as Antwerp or Singapore for the potential for delays always exists. While not a covered peril, this added time at a marine terminal can expose the beans to fluctuating climatic conditions- direct sunlight during the day and cool evenings, an ideal incubator for condensation.
Direct water contact is quite problematic but not a likely event due to the layers of protection (plastic, tin and/or corrugated, container) under normal circumstances.
Vanilla beans much like coffee and cocoa are subject to infestation but these incidents seem to be fairly rare.
Rough handling resulting in breakage of the beans is not a real issue since the beans are typically sent to extractors or flavoring factories. The one exception would be the very small percentage of beans destined to specialty shops to be sold in their original form.
The value of the beans does vary tremendously. At this time the best beans are selling for approximately $270 per kilo so the potential for theft and pilferage at the ports in exporting countries cannot be ignored. Madagascar can be a problem area.
Loss of weight occurs naturally and any discrepancy between the manifested weight per carton always differs from the landed quantity. Some growers will resort to adding foreign material in the shipment in the hopes that the importer will either not notice or will ignore it. At the current price levels this is unlikely.
Damaged vanilla beans do retain some residual value but this depends on the severity. Since most of the companies that purchase the beans process them further (pressing or macerating into extract or chopped product), there may be some normal washing that can rid the beans from surface mold and defects. Moldy beans can also be reconditioned by boiling them in hot water or immersing them into propylene glycol or a similar chemical and then drying the beans.
Air drying or drying beans in a conventional oven may also have a positive effect on light to moderately wet beans.
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