Commissary customers in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are finding new limits on how much fresh beef, pork, chicken and turkey products they can buy.
Defense Commissary Agency officials started the limitations on May 1, in anticipation of national shortages in the supply chain that’s affected by closures of various U.S. beef/pork/poultry processing plants, according to retired Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, DoD special assistant for commissary operations, in an announcement of the move.
Customers will be limited to two items of fresh beef, two items of fresh pork, two items of fresh chicken and two items of fresh turkey they can buy during each shopping trip. But officials note there may be exceptions, based on a store’s supply. If the store is extremely short on a product, they may further limit it to one item; or if a supply has been building up of the product, they may loosen the limits.
Officials will remove the limits when the supply chain returns to normal.
Bianchi said these limits will especially help avoid depletion of meat inventories in stores that don’t get daily meat deliveries, in case there is customer panic buying.
The limits don’t apply to overseas commissaries, because the commissary agency has enough supply in the pipeline. Bianchi said the agency continues to prioritize quantities for shipment to overseas stores. Customers overseas have less access to these familiar products.
Commissary agency spokesman Kevin Robinson said officials haven’t yet seen instances of panic buying of meat, and haven’t yet seen any shortages. “The May 1 shopping limits were implemented to get ahead of anticipated shortages,” he said.
Like retail grocery stores outside the gate, commissaries have seen a spike in demand for essential items since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. On March 14, commissary officials issued a directive instructing store directors worldwide to use their discretion in placing shopping limits necessary to help maintain stock availability. From the start, commissaries overseas, starting with stores in Italy, South Korea and Japan, placed limits on items such as hand sanitizers, disinfectants and toilet paper.
“Although there have been some positive signs of available product on shelves, the supply chain is still severely stressed across the retail landscape, so we are not out of the woods yet; that’s why shopping limits are still necessary,” Robinson said.
He noted that when he shopped at the Fort Lee, Va., commissary on Sunday, there was an adequate supply of toilet paper, paper towels and sanitizer.
One commissary customer saw a couple with a "large shopping cart bulging" with hand sanitizers and related products.
Customers are starting to see a “significant difference” in available products, compared to a few weeks ago, because of the shopping limits as well as the teamwork with industry suppliers, he said. “Many of our top 30 suppliers are modifying their operations to focus on increasing production of high demand products our customers want,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, commissary officials have encouraged customers to calmly buy what they need, and to avoid panic buying, to ensure that products are available to others in their military communities.
“I believe our customers understand the greater good with these shopping limits and the ones we’ve implemented previously,” Robinson said.