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Moroccan textile exports bounceback.

After the severe disruptions of COVID-19, Morocco’s textile and clothing industry is flourishing again. Despite fierce international competition sector is firmly focused on exports and, in 2022, these jumped to reach a record 44bn Moroccan dirhams ($4.25bn).

The country is now Europe’s eighth-largest textile and clothing supplier. The country is a leader but better wages in other industries limit the sector’s appeal to younger workers. Fast fashion accounts for 52 percent of production. Predominantly, this involves the assembly of designs provided by wholesale and retail customers using fabrics, yarn, and other accessories imported from countries led by Turkey

Its proximity to southern Europe — specifically Spain — is a huge advantage given the speed of supply in fast fashion. Moroccan textiles make up most of brands like Zara and Mango’s garment supplies.

Besides Morocco’s proximity and its logistical links to European end markets, the Moroccan textile industry also offers competitive labour costs, short lead times, and flexibility for small and medium orders, through its dedicated textile technology parks and industrial zones.

Trade boomed in the 1990s when cheap labour was plentiful. With the rise of trade with post-Soviet Eastern Europe, Romania’s textile industry — in particular — took much of the export market from the Kingdom. When customers such as the British retailer M&S left Morocco in the 2000s, factories closed.

Morocco’s fortunes as a centre of clothing manufacturing changed again when Romania entered the EU as a full member. Many of that country’s workers gradually switched to other, better-paying industries, helping restore the cost competitiveness of Morocco’s textile trade.

Today, the textile sector today has 1,600 companies registered and, last year, they reached a turnover of Dh60bn ($5.6bn), according to the Moroccan government. Exports accounted for Dh40bn ($3.9bn) of this total, compared with Dh36bn ($3.5bn) in 2018.

For the country, the textile sector is an essential source of foreign exchange, as well as a key employment provider. Figures differ but, according to the Moroccan Association of the Textile and Apparel Industries (AMITH), the industry employs around 160,000 workers, most of whom are women.

Registered factories are frequently inspected by the government and audited by buyers to ensure acceptable working conditions and production standards prevail. However, the sector has been embarrassed by the operation of illegal factories, based primarily around Tangier. In 2021, a factory owner was jailed after 28 workers died in the flooding of an illegal clothes factory concealed in a villa basement. It had been operating in the city for more than 20 years.

The Moroccan workforce is very flexible: 95 percent of its workers are women, and a lot of them are mothers but, even so, they stay and work late to make sure the orders go out. Even so, labour shortages are an issue for the factory owners, as better wages in other sectors make some workers look elsewhere.

Morocco’s average textile factory wage is between Dh2,000 ($195) and Dh4,000 ($390) per month. This compares with an average of Dh7,200 ($700) per month for a car factory worker.

China dominates world production, but Turkey is the rival that Morocco is targeting. The manufacturing of clothing for both local and export markets in Morocco uses large quantities of textiles sourced from Turkey. Fabrics, yarns, and other raw material exports to Morocco increased by 30 percent in the first six months of 2022. Also, in terms of local consumer sales, it is Turkish rather than domestic products that are omnipresent in Moroccan shops and markets.

Experts said the sector needs to invest more in new technology, with government help to access new research and textiles and to participate in trade fairs like London and Paris. The sector also needs to search out new sales territories. It should look to Africa which is a new market, and it is the future market.
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