Food Shortage: DeCA to Airlift Cold Items to Japan, Korea

Commissary officials will be airlifting some short shelf life cold items to Korea, Okinawa and mainland Japan starting Jan. 13 in an attempt to end shortages of those items on many overseas commissary shelves.

The solution comes after patrons began experiencing shortages in those locations last month of some cold items like butter and yogurt. The supply problem in Japan has been primarily caused by a dock worker slowdown on the U.S. West Coast, which has resulted in delayed shipments, commissary officials told us last week.

"Starting Tuesday, we will be airlifting critical shelf life products from the U.S. We are airlifting produce, yogurts, cottage cheese and other dairy items to Korea, Okinawa and mainland Japan," Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) officials posted on the agency's Facebook page. "These items are expected to make it to commissaries by Friday and Saturday."

Despite the no doubt huge price tag for airlifting items overseas, officials said there would be no extra charge for the airlifted items.

Shelves at the Kadena Air Force Base, Japan commissary Jan. 5. Shelves at the Kadena Air Force Base, Japan commissary Jan. 5.

Airlifting some groceries to those locations is not new. DeCA currently spends about $35 million a year airlifting certain produce, such as bagged salad, to commissaries in Japan, Korea and Guam, sources have told us.

In their statement officials apologized to patrons for the shortage.

"We know this has not been easy on you. If you don't see a product you want on the shelf, please contact your store manager to find out when it will be received," they wrote. "We are continuing to look for more approved local sources and finding solutions."

The plan to airlift these cold items will not impact commissaries in Europe, which recently had their own stocking problem thanks to a perfect storm of problems with Customs, a broken container ship, holiday closures and bad weather. Those shortages should be resolved soon, commissaries officials told us last week.

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