Exclusive Sheila Eggleston Asda is still Britain's cheapest food retailer ­ despite facing intense competition from arch rival Tesco. For the fourth year running, the Wal-Mart subsidiary has notched up the highest number of cheapest baskets in The Grocer 33 weekly shopping basket survey. This year it accounted for 24 of the cheapest baskets recorded in our survey ­ a level of consistency that was unmatched by any other supermarket chain. Tesco came second, accounting for 13 of our cheapest baskets. The best value shop at Asda during the past 12 months checked in at £37.29. The cheapest full basket we found at Tesco was 15p dearer. Every June our mystery shoppers buy the same items as they did in 1997 when we launched The Grocer 33. For the past three years Asda has provided the cheapest full basket. It failed this time round, and that particular accolade goes to Tesco with a £35.82 till receipt. Asda's failure to provide a full basket this week is all the more surprising because in the past year the company has had the best record among the multiples for availability of product. In all, we recorded four full baskets this week with an average price of £37.19. This is 94p more expensive than the same week last year, and 68p dearer than our original survey in June 1997. There are a number of reasons why our anniversary basket is pricier. There were price hikes on fresh produce, Kellogg's Corn Flakes and milk earlier this year. And paper goods rose by 10% in July. Compared with the original list, cheaper items this year included own label baked beans, Birds Eye frozen peas, McVitie's digestives, Walkers crisps and cooked ham. l See pages 23,24 {{NEWS }}