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Hawaii, overseas commissaries facing chilled food shortages

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    This Nov. 6, 2014, file photo shows trucks lined up at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles. Nearly six months after their contract expired, as West Coast sea ports struggle to handle billions of dollars of cargo, dockworkers and their employers are apparently still not close to a new deal.
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NORFOLK, Va. >> Produce, meat and other staples are in short supply at many military commissaries overseas, making troops and their families go off base and pay more for basic items.

The food shortage is occurring because of stalled labor negotiations at West Coast ports and logistical problems in Europe.

Some stores are experiencing critical shortages in perishable products, such as dairy items, according to the Defense Commissary Agency at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Being able to buy groceries at a commissary is considered a primary benefit of the military’s compensation package. On average, customers save more than 30 percent when compared with commercial stores. The agency sells food items at cost, plus a five percent surcharge.

“We are doing everything possible — increasing our product reorders, looking for additional approved local sources and examining alternative shipping methods,” Defense Commissary Agency Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu said in a statement.

The agency blamed different reasons for the shortages in Europe and the Pacific.

In the Pacific, shipments destined for commissaries in Hawaii, Guam, Korea and Japan have been delayed because of ongoing labor negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and labor unions representing dock workers.

Those delays have resulted in shortages of lunch meats, fresh pork and yogurt, among other things. Frozen and dry grocery products haven’t been affected, the agency said.

In Europe, sea containers weren’t able to clear customs because a computer process failed, stalling deliveries of perishable items in late December. At the same time, the agency also had system problems that affected the delivery of about 40 percent of its frozen food items from a plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

The agency said it expects more food to be on shelves in Europe next week.

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