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Pacific commissary customers can expect prices to drop soon on shredded lettuce, spinach, coleslaw and other pre-mixed salads, the Defense Commissary Agency said.
Pacific commissary customers can expect prices to drop soon on shredded lettuce, spinach, coleslaw and other pre-mixed salads, the Defense Commissary Agency said. (Jessica Bidwell/Stars and Stripes)

OKINAWA, Japan — Pacific commissaries will soon cut prices on shredded lettuce, spinach, coleslaw and other pre-mixed bagged salads, the Defense Commissary Agency said.

Customers should start seeing lower prices next month when the U.S. government begins picking up the tab for shipping the produce from the States, DeCA spokesman Kevin Robinson recently told Stars and Stripes.

Shoppers have been paying shipping costs under a contract DeCA negotiated two years ago with distributors in Guam, Japan and South Korea.

The goal of that contract, which saved DeCA more than $8 million, was to encourage suppliers to source products locally, Robinson said. But when reasonably priced bagged salads couldn’t be found near bases, distributors continued to ship them from the U.S. and passed the cost along to customers.

During the contract, which ends in April, Pacific commissary prices for fresh produce increased 7.2 percent, and the cost of bagged salads rose 150.3 percent, a recent Inspector General report said. Some bagged salads cost nearly $7 recently at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

“To correct the problem, DeCA will remove bagged salads from the current produce contracts … and revert to a similar agreement for bagged salads as was in place prior to the current contract,” Robinson said.

The change comes after the first in a series of audits of Pacific commissary produce prices sparked by customer complaints.

Commissaries haven’t routinely kept records on quality problems with fresh produce, the IG report said.

Recent commissary customers at Kadena said the groceries there weren’t as good as they are used to back in the U.S.

“The commissary produce spoils very quickly,” said shopper Amber Norville. “I use … containers to keep my produce fresh for a long time, but notice that commissary produce never lasts as long as the off base.”

Another shopper, Emily Masucci, said she wished the commissary produce was the same price as off-base shops.

“It’s such a pain going to a bunch of different places,” she said. “One of many reasons why I miss the States. You can do all your grocery shopping in one place.”

Such issues are being addressed, Robinson said.

“DeCA has assigned additional agency representatives to commissaries in the Pacific to review the quality and pricing of products and to work with the contractor and our stores to ensure our patrons get the best product available,” he said.

bidwell.jessica@stripes.com

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