BOWEN'S horticulture sector is celebrating the arrival of agricultural students from Japan who will spend a year learning and working in the region.
The graduate program is the first of its kind for Australia, with Japan having previously sent students to the US and Europe to undertake their international studies.
The nine students will live and work in Bowen for 12 months and get experience working on both large scale and more compact fruit and vegetable farms.
Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker said securing the program had taken an enormous amount of work, with the Bowen Chamber of Commerce central to getting it off the ground.
"It has taken an enormous amount of work to get the Japanese to agree to do this as they've only ever gone to America and Europe, this is their first time in Australia," Mr Walker said.
"We see it as an opportunity to expand international relationships and we see it as a building block as Japan is going to be one of our major trading partners in the future."
The students all have farming backgrounds in Japan and are viewed to be future leaders in agricultural industries in their country.
"These kids will get a good look at what we do and I'm sure these kids will be future leaders in Japan's agricultural community, the kids that do this exchange are real go-getters," Mr Walker said.
"It is a good exchange of people and ideas."
Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the program would benefit the individual horticultural growers and wider agriculture industry by developing stronger relationships with Japan, as a key export trading partner of fruit and vegetables.
“The Japanese Agricultural Exchange Council (JAEC) has been sending trainees to the USA and Europe for 60 years, but this is the first time they have brought a group to Australia,” Mr Furner said.
“The students will benefit from the experience and growers in the Whitsunday region will benefit from having someone with a strong interest in the horticulture industry, committed to their business for the entire season.
“This initiative is providing a new avenue for growers to address skills shortages.”
The students will spend their first month at Bowen TAFE sharpening up their English language skills before being sent to work on fruit and vegetable farms in the Whitsunday region.
“We anticipate that there will be opportunities for the program to offer reciprocal arrangements for Australian growers to learn about the Japanese market and technologies being developed.," Mr Furner said.