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Think about it, you’re in the supermarket, and you’ve noticed a sharp increase in the cost of food since a few years ago. It sucks. It’s painful. Yet, it could a lot worse. It’s actually a lot worse for people overseas. By that, I do mean the rice riots that have occurred. And although really hard hit, I’m not wanting to write the Third World, although it’s a given that really needs to be addressed. At this moment, I mean American armed service members and their families who live abroad. Think about it, the exchange rate for the American dollar is abysmal. So, for the enlisted service member and his/her family converting dollars into Pounds, Yen, Won, Turkish Lira, or Euro, it just adds to how expensive buying goods on the local economy can be. It used to be that the PX/BX and the Commissary on base would be the low cost refuge for overseas DOD dependent Americans. Stateside Americans may be hurting from the George W. Bush economy, but so are those overseas, as the Stars and Stripes newspaper recently pointed out:

U.S. food inflation is running at more than double the normal rate this year, according to Reuters, and economists say it may get worse if energy prices don’t continue to decline from record highs.

At stateside commissaries, a Defense Commissary Agency survey revealed the cost of groceries, with the exception of meat and produce, is up 2.1 percent for the first six months of fiscal 2008, according to DECA officials.

“The price increases are universal to commissaries located in the United States and overseas,” said DECA spokeswoman Nancy O’Nell in a written response to Stars and Stripes. “This does not include prices on locally purchased items in Japan, South Korea and Guam, which move with the local economy.”

Though it takes extra fuel to ship and fly retail items from the States to Pacific overseas commissaries, those unique costs are paid with congressionally appropriated funds and are not passed on to customers, O’Nell said.

Because of that, commissaries in Japan, South Korea and Guam charge the same prices for national U.S. brand products as stateside commissaries do, she said.

DECA officials didn’t tie higher retail costs to energy prices. But the agency is required to sell items at cost and therefore passes “all manufacturer price changes — reductions as well as increases — directly through to the shelf price,” O’Nell said.

The most significant increase at commissaries has been in dairy products, which showed an overall jump of 7.8 percent during the six-month survey period, according to O’Nell. Least affected appear to be frozen foods and health and beauty care products, rising 0.5 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, O’Nell said.

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