Thanks to a large nickel industry and French economic support, New Caledonia enjoys higher levels of wealth and food security than many other small island economies. Despite a generally good economic outlook, wealth is poorly distributed. That leaves the rural Melanesian and Polynesian members of New Caledonian society especially vulnerable to poverty, which is exacerbated by high food prices. With less purchasing power, these groups are prone to poorer nutritional outcomes and are more likely to be overweight or obese and have less diverse diets. For many, subsistence farming, fishing and hunting provides a more reliable source of nutrition than expensive shop- or market-bought products. Agriculture plays an increasingly small part in New Caledonia’s economy, driven by a reduction in agricultural land and by the lure of more appealing jobs outside of the agriculture industry. Water security also faces difficulties. New Caledonia generally receives enough water for its needs, but it lacks diversified sources of water, making it vulnerable to shortages during dry years. It also lacks the capacity to adequately purify most of its water, making it prone to high levels of heavy metals and occasional bacterial contamination. As a relatively wealthy Pacific Island, New Caledonia can do more to make a greater part of its population food and water secure.

Key points:

  • New Caledonia is wealthier than many other small island economies, but that wealth is unevenly distributed.
  • Uneven wealth and high food prices make it harder for some groups to receive adequate nutrition, especially in rural areas and among Polynesians and Melanesians – these groups are also more prone to obesity.
  • Agriculture’s contribution to the economy has fallen over the last two decades, largely due to decreasing agricultural land and more attractive jobs in other industries.
  • New Caledonia mostly relies on surface water resources, making it vulnerable to scarcity during dry periods. These sources are also vulnerable to contamination and there are high levels of heavy metals in the water.
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