The territory of Wallis and Futuna buys a thousand times more than it sells: Trochus shells and a few bags of taro are the only exports.
Most of the people employed on the island work for the French government, and what they produce is perhaps the most invisible export of all—the illusion of colonial glory. The strategic position of Wallis and Futuna at the heart of the South Pacific accounts for its continuing importance in France's global empire.
The US$30 million annual territorial budget and US$70 million in state expenditures come mostly out of the pockets of French taxpayers, although some local revenue is collected in customs duties.
Nearly half this money is absorbed by administration costs. French civil servants on Wallis make a lot more than their counterparts in France, plus a respectable lump sum upon completion of their three-year contracts. All prices are set accordingly. The locals get free medical and dental care, and free education (in French) up to university level: With such French largess, independence is unthinkable. Considerable money also arrives in the form of remittances from Wallisian emigrants in New Caledonia.
The locals cultivate much of their own food in the rich volcanic soils. Taro, yam, manioc, breadfruit, and banana gardens are everywhere. The coconut plantations of Wallis were destroyed in the 1930s by the rhinoceros beetle, but this pest has been brought under control. All of the coconuts are now used to feed the prolific swine, an important source of food. The plantations of Futuna were saved, but today they only produce a couple of hundred tons of copra a year (also fed to the hogs). High quality kava is grown for local consumption.
Archaeologists have found pig bones associated with lapita pottery dating from 1400 B.C., proving that these animals were introduced by the first humans. Introduced African snails continue to damage the vegetation.