NAIROBI, Feb 22 (Reuters) – The top price of the benchmark Kenyan coffee grade AA rose to $600 per 50 kg bag at auction this week from $491 at the previous sale, the Nairobi Coffee Exchange said on Wednesday.

Although the east African nation is a small producer compared with other regional growers such as Ethiopia and Uganda, its specialty beans are known for their high quality and are sought after for blending.

Grade AA COF-AA-KE fetched $224-$600 per bag at the sale that was held on Tuesday compared with $257-$491 at last week’s auction, the exchange said in a report.

Grade AB COF-AB-KE went for $211-$521 per bag, up from $177-$433 at the previous auction.

Some 23,288 bags were offered for sale at the auction, the coffee exchange said, with only 8,341 being bought at a total value of just over $3 million.

Regulator Coffee Board of Kenya said in November it saw coffee output rising 6 percent in the October 2011-September 2012 crop year to 54,000 tonnes.

GRADE THIS SALE($) AVERAGE PRICE($) PREVIOUS SALE($) AA 224-600 427.51 257-491 AB 211-521 349.67 177-433 C 177-277 239.31 157-285 PB 196-546 338.34 221-437 T 131-210 184.57 205-240 TT 163-296 228.02 218-319

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by George Obulutsa and Miral Fahmy)

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