UK garment manufacturer Dewhirst, the largest supplier to high-street giant Marks & Spencer, is planning to shut down its seven production plants in Morocco  according to media sources.


Dewhirst is reported to be planning the closure of its factories under plans to shift manufacturing to China.


1,500 of the company's 10,000 workers in Morocco are based at its Casablanca plant.


Dewhirst's closures will represent the largest withdrawal by an overseas textile company from the country.


Textiles and clothing contribute toward 30 per cent of Morocco's total exports. However, recent pay hikes and steep energy costs have put a dampener on the local industry's competitiveness within the market.


China's textile and clothing wages are four times lower than those of Morocco, which posted a 17 per cent plummet in exports at the end of the first quarter of 2005.


Analysts, however, have attributed part of the decrease to Moroccan companies' failure to produce new designs and back domestic fashion designers.