These factors were compounded by restricted access to grain: domestic sources were constrained by emergency inter-provincial trade barriers, while access to international sources was largely denied by the War Cabinet of Great Britain.
The relative impact of each of these contributing factors to the death toll and economic devastation is still a matter of controversy.
The Land Revenue Commission of 1940 reported that "[t]he number of actual tillers of the soil with occupancy rights is diminishing so rapidly that the disappearance of this class is imminent".
Water provided the only reliable means of transport across most of the province during the rainy seasons, and all the time in areas such as the vast delta of the coastal southeastern Sundarbans.
Different analyses frame the famine against natural, economic, or political causes.
The government was slow to provide humanitarian aid and never formally declared a state of famine.
Deaths from starvation began to decline, but over half the famine-related deaths occurred in 1944, after the food security crisis had abated, as a result of disease.
From the late nineteenth century through the Great Depression, social and economic forces exerted a harmful effect on the structure of Bengal's income distribution and the ability of its agricultural sector to sustain the populace.
These increased significantly when the military took control of crisis relief in October 1943, and more effective aid arrived after a record rice harvest that December.
These included a rapidly growing population, increasing household debt, stagnant agricultural productivity, increased social stratification, and alienation of the peasant class from their landholdings.
The interaction of these processes left clearly defined social and economic groups mired in poverty and indebtedness, unable to cope with the sudden economic shocks they faced in 19, in the context of the Second World War. By far the most important is the winter crop of aman rice, sown in May and June and harvested in November and December.
The underlying causes of the famine include inefficient agricultural practices, over-population, and de-peasantisation through debt bondage and land grabbing.
Proximate causes involve local natural disasters – a cyclone, storm surges and flooding, and rice crop disease – and various consequences arising from the war.