The first five Oggun tractors have rolled off the assembly line, ready for Cuban certification before the Alabama-based company, CleBer LLC, can provide simple, affordable tractors to Cuban farmers.
“We’re in the final stage of approval on the Cuban government side and expect that whole process to be completed by the end of July, ” says Horace Clemmons. He and longtime business partner Saul Berenthal, a Cuban native who lives in North Carolina, started CleBer last year.
Based in Jackson County, where Clemmons lives, CleBer was the first U.S. company approved by the Cuban government to do business there since the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in 2015.
“We are making good progress with the departments of Commerce and Treasury here in the States, ” Clemmons says. “We’ve also put in an application to extend our license to include other agricultural and construction products to expand our line of business in Cuba.”
While paperwork churns on the Cuban deal, CleBer will begin selling its new $10, 000 tractor to U.S. farmers, especially the small farms that focus on organic or fresh-to-restaurant trade.
The tractor will first be available via internet from cleberllc.com.
“This allows us to generate revenue while we wait on the building to get under way in Cuba, ” Clemmons says. “We’re also producing more jobs in Alabama.”
The tractors are being manufactured at Liberty Steel Fabrication Inc., in Fyffe. Clemmons estimates 15 to 30 jobs will be created at the plant. CleBer also has hired two people, he says.
The Oggun tractor is similar to the first tractors built for 40-acre farms in the U.S. Clemmons says it’s based on the Allis-Chalmers version built between 1948 and 1955. The patents had expired, so Clemmons and Berenthal hired an engineer to take the design and enhance it for their vision — which includes simple parts replacement so it is easy to repair.
The tractor has a 19-inch ground clearance and it can have a belly and rear attachment at the same time, meaning a farmer can lay a row out and plant it all in one pass.
Clemmons says once all the final government approvals are in place, their plan is to build a small assembly plant in the Mariel Special Economic Zone near Havana. For the first three years, the parts will be made in Alabama and shipped from Mobile to a new $1 billion port the Cuban government built in the Mariel district to attract foreign investment.
Text by Wendy Reeves