A plan announced in February to slash the amount of produce flown from the U.S. to commissaries in Asia and instead source all produce locally has been put on hold for now, commissary officials said.
Early this year Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) officials said instead of paying for produce to be airlifted from the U.S. to commissaries in Japan, Guam and Korea, a new supplier contract would require that the majority of the items be sourced locally. That move would save taxpayers the about $35 million a year that a source told us DeCA spends on produce transport.
But it could also double the price of produce for on-base Asia commissary shoppers. That's because buying locally the produce Americans are used to seeing, according to an industry source, is far more expensive than the items the supplier purchases (and the government pays to ship) from the states.
"Under any scenario, it's going to increase the cost to patrons," said a source with intimate knowledge of the commissary system. "They are going to pay for it one way or another."
The new contract was supposed to go into effect last month. But DeCA instead decided to delay the change to late March of next year."The existing contract for supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to the Pacific has been extended for an additional seven months ... to allow for completion of the acquisition process," Kevin Robinson, a commissary spokesman, told me.
The delay could be to blame on lawmakers' rejection of a Defense Department plan to by 2017 slash by $1 billion the commissary's $1.4 billion budget. Without a need to make those kinds of drastic cuts, DeCA may not be in quite as much of a hurry to make major changes to what their most pricey to run stores -- those overseas -- see in their aisles.