This was considered the second worst famine to strike Bengal province. The highest mortality was not in the poor groups of the society, but among artisans and small traders whose income vanished when people spent all their savings on food and did not employ artisans.
A series of crop failure caused localized famines in 1940-41. Burma was previously the largest exporter of rice to India and a significant portion of it was to Bengal.
After the Japanese occupation of Burma during World War 2, rice exports to India became nil. Democratically elected provincial governments and public servants of Indian Civil Service considered that Bengal had plenty of food, which could be made available with good administration.
Traders openly hoarded rice to make speculative profits.
Imports from Australia and North America were hard to bring in due to the war. In fact, the British rulers turned a bad food shortage into a massive famine through their wartime policies.