The value of agricultural products of New Caledonia is much less than that of minerals. Colonization of the island by French farmers has met with indifferent success. Failures of various organized attempts have been due to one or all of several factors, small size of farms, lack of capital, insufficient preparation to receive immigrants, and absence of accessible markets. There is a small influx of French colonists, but shortage of labor is now a serious problem.
Coffee, introduced in 1856, was cultivated especially from 1895 on, the time of the "Feillet" colonization, called after the governor who organized it. That colonization was characterized by an obligation on the part of the settlers to raise coffee trees. The coffee industry, in spite of various economic difficulties, has maintained itself to this day and is a mainstay of farming. Farmers on the humid east coast raise the Robusta variety; those on the drier west side, Arabica. The quality of the coffee is good. Most of it is prepared for the French market on the farms and plantations by simple methods involving depulpers, hullers, and graders.
Copra, for many years an important agricultural product, has recently taken second place to coffee. The economic life of the natives of New Caledonia is based on agriculture and fishing. Yams and taro are the more important food crops raised. Native crafts have been mostly abandoned, cotton garments are worn; houses of sawn timber with corrugated iron roofs have almost entirely replaced thatched and bark-walled houses. Many eat canned food instead of native products, and cook in kerosene cans.