DeCA to airlift certain products to some Pacific stores
FORT LEE, Va. -- The Defense Commissary Agency will begin airlifting essential chill items to stores in Korea, mainland Japan and Okinawa today to alleviate some of the ongoing product shortages in the Pacific.
DeCA will use commercial contracted airlift to transport essential produce, yogurt, cottage cheese and other dairy items for delivery to commissaries by Friday and Saturday. Other chilled items will continue to be transported by ship.
The commissary agency will weigh customer needs, product shelf life, projected port deliveries and the availability of commercial U.S. suppliers to determine any changes to the products being airlifted, said Agency Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu.
"For the time being, contingency airlifts of critical short shelf life items to Korea, mainland Japan and Okinawa is one part of the solution we're working to improve the timely delivery of products to all our stores in the Pacific," Jeu said. "We're also ramping up reorders and looking at more local source options. And, we also want our patrons to know that there will be no change in price for the airlifted products."
Commissaries in Korea, mainland Japan and Okinawa have been experiencing shortages of many chilled items because orders from the U.S. have been arriving up to 10-15 days late. These delays stem from West Coast port slowdowns related to negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and labor unions representing West Coast dock workers.
The West Coast port delays have impacted the ability of commissaries in the Pacific to keep shelves fully stocked with sensitive short shelf life products, such as yogurts, luncheon meats, fresh bone-in meat and fresh pork. Frozen and dry grocery products are not as affected by the West Coast port delays because a 30-day supply of those products is maintained in DeCA's central distribution centers in Korea, Japan, Okinawa and Guam. DeCA cannot maintain a 30-day supply of highly perishable items because of their shorter shelf life.
"Although West Coast operations have impacted Hawaii's commercial shipments, it wasn't to the degree that shipments to Japan, Okinawa and Korea have been impacted," Jeu said. "Guam also is supported from West Coast ports. However, the shipping lanes supporting our Guam operations have only experienced minimal delays."
With shipments scheduled to arrive weekly, DeCA officials are asking customers to check store signage for updates. In addition, DeCA advises customers to contact their local store management about a product's availability status if they don't see a product they want on the shelf.
In Europe, recent problems with product shortages are nearly solved as stock availability continues to improve. By the end of this week, product delivery to stores in Europe will be back on schedule, depending on delivery location. Overall, DeCA sees prompt supply of all its overseas commissaries as its No. 1 priority, Jeu said.
"We're laser-focused on improving the situation for our patrons overseas," Jeu said. "We're working very hard to resupply our commissaries and keep stock levels at acceptable levels."