Overseas commissaries hit with critical food shortages

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The entrance to the commissary at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)
From Stripes.com
The entrance to the commissary at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes)

Overseas commissaries hit with critical food shortages

by: Travis J. Tritten | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: January 08, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Defense Commissary Agency said Wednesday it is working to fix problems that have led to critical shortages in perishable products at military base supermarkets in the Pacific and Europe.

Union negotiations and computer glitches over the past month have held up shipments of yogurt, lunch meat, butter and fresh bone-in meat, according to the agency. In Europe, a breakdown in the DeCA distribution system prevented about 40 percent of frozen foods from being distributed.

The commissary agency operates 66 overseas stores, with most in the Pacific and Europe. Many base residents serving abroad depend on the on-base facilities for American-style food and a discount compared to grocery stores in host countries.

“Several factors have caused our overseas stores to fall short of what is required to serve our patrons there,” DeCA Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu said in a released statement.

The agency is “doing everything possible,” including reordering products, searching for additional local sources for the food, and considering alternative shipping methods, Jeu said.

Union negotiations on the West Coast between dock workers and the Pacific Maritime Association have held up cargo and delayed food shipments to commissaries in mainland Japan, Okinawa, Guam, South Korea and Hawaii, according to DeCA. The groups have been yet to strike a labor contract since last summer but a mediator has been called in.

“In some instances commissary patrons experienced critical shortages in perishable products such as chilled juices, produce and dairy products,” DeCA said in a press release.

DeCA said it is trying to work around the ongoing West Coast port delays and commissary personnel are “standing ready to receive incoming shipments immediately upon arrival and stock them to the shelves.”

Frozen and dry foods have not been affected by the union disagreement because DeCA maintains a 30-day supply of those products in its Pacific central distribution centers.

Europe is experiencing shortages of both unfrozen perishable and frozen foods.

Sea containers headed for commissaries could not clear customs due to a computer failure and deliveries of unfrozen, perishable groceries were delayed during the week before Christmas, DeCA said.

Then an additional breakdown of the agency’s distribution system affected about 40 percent of the frozen food kept at its cold storage plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

DeCA said it expects to improve its grocery selections in Europe by Jan. 14 depending on the location.

tritten.travis@stripes.com
Twitter: @Travis_Tritten