Commissary officials were scheduled to begin airlifting produce, yogurt and other dairy items to stores in the Pacific on Tuesday after delays in shipping led to empty store shelves.

Customers will not pay for the increased cost of airlifting the products to the stores, said Defense Commissary Agency spokesman Kevin Robinson.

"The costs of the airlifts are coming out of DeCA's budget," he said.

Troops and families in the Pacific have seen empty shelves in their stores because of West Coast port delays related to negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and labor unions representing dock workers.

DeCA officials said Jan. 7 that they have been taking steps such as increasing product reorders and looking for additional approved local sources, as well as examining alternative shipping methods, in an effort to get the shelves restocked.

Shipments to commissaries in Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, mainland Japan and Okinawa have been delayed up to 10 days. The problem has been the commissaries' ability to keep shelves stocked with products such as yogurt, luncheon meat, butter, fresh bone-in meat and fresh pork.

Frozen and dry grocery products have not been affected because a 30-day supply is kept in DeCA's central distribution centers, Robinson said.

Customers at some stores in Europe also had seen empty shelves, but for different reasons. DeCA officials expect the situation to improve at the stores no later than Wednesday, depending on the location. Those problems were caused when sea containers at European ports were unable to clear customs after a computer process shut down and stalled deliveries of perishable items from Dec. 18 to 24, DeCA officials said.

Compounding the problem were system failures between DeCA's business system and its warehouse management system.